The Christmas holidays have come and gone, and that sets us up for the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and even depression. It’s the time of the year when it seems as though winter has overstayed its welcome, and spring and summer are too far from our reach. The temperatures are colder, the wind can be chilling, and there’s not enough sunlight – it can really leave you feeling down.
But you don’t have to let winter get the best of you. Fight off the blues with these easy tips (that don’t require bundling up and heading outdoors).
Easy Tips to Fight off Winter Blues
1. Dress Yourself Happy
It seems too easy to mimic the current weather conditions when you’re getting dressed in the morning. It’s grey outside, so you feel grey and follow suit by wearing grey. See a pattern? If you want to get out of your “grey” funk, dress brighter.
The colors you choose to wear can impact your mood and how you feel.
Need an energy boost? Opt for red and violet. Their bright hues make us feel more energetic. In a study of Olympic athletes, participants who wore a red jersey were more likely to win a gold medal in comparison to those who wore blue.
If springtime is your favorite season because it makes you happy, dress for spring. Greens and yellows evoke happiness as well as positive memories of being outdoors.
So, before you pull on the same dark sweater, skip over the blues and blacks, and head over to the brighter side of your closet.
2. Eat for a Better Mood Eat Healthy
In the winter, we often turn to comfort food. We tend to limit our diets to starches, carbohydrates and sugar. The trouble is, these foods give us a boost, but then destroy our energy and make us feel bluer than before.
There are better ways to eat for mood control. First and foremost, enjoy lean meats, such as chicken or fish. Also, stock up on omega-3 fatty acids that you can get from foods such as salmon, walnuts, soybeans, squash, and sweet peppers.The Mayo Clinic reports that omega-3 is essential for the brain and often prescribed to combat depression.
Other great food options are berries. Not only will they make you feel like you’re enjoying flavors from spring and summer, but they’re loaded with antioxidants. Berries also share a similar composition to valproic acid – an ingredient found in most mood-stabilizing drugs. By eating berries, you can boost your mood and keep it that way.
Another tip is to try and avoid artificial sugars. They’ll give you an initial artificial “high,” and then leave you with an energy crash. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that too much sugar can actually change your brain and slow it down. If you’re already feeling down, sugar will only add to your low mood.
3. Throw a Party
It’s hard not to feel great when you’re surrounded by good friends, good food, and celebrating. So why not take the idea of having a party and use it as a means to stay happy through the winter?
You may be thinking, “I don’t have any occasion to celebrate.” Who cares! When have you needed a reason to call up some friends and family and enjoy each other’s company? Surrounding yourself with people is good for your mood and your health.
A University of Texas study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2010, found those suffering from coronary artery disease, who had minimal social ties, were two times more likely to die compared to those who had strong social connections.
Further analysis revealed that people with minimal social ties are more likely to have weaker immune systems, higher inflammation, high blood pressure, and greater cardiovascular issues.
What’s a better reason to celebrate than good times and good health? Being around people you care about will ensure you’ll have plenty of both!
4. Occupy Your Time
It’s too easy to feel sulky when all you do is stay inside because it’s too cold to venture out. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself busy and lighten your mood.
Use the winter months as a great opportunity to get around to those home projects you’ve been putting off. Ticking things off your to-do list gives you a sense of happy accomplishment.
Another idea is to start an indoor garden, or add a few plants to your home. Plants can create a calming effect. They also help purify the air, which is especially good in the winter when the heat’s on, and the indoor air becomes dry.
Also, take this time to catch up on the books you once started, begin a knitting project, or learn how to use the latest technology. Whatever the hobby may be, being indoors doesn’t have to be a burden. As long as you keep yourself busy, you’ll stay positive as well.
5. Increase Your Exposure to Light
The wintertime can be dark, and the decline in sunlight can make us feel down in the dumps. To combat the winter blues, getting as much natural light as possible is the key. But how can you get more light if the sun is setting in the late afternoon? Well, for starters, maximize daylight hours as much as possible. Even if the sun is setting early, taking it in when it is available can work wonders on your mood.
If you’re cooped up inside, ensure you are near a large window to enjoy the sun’s rays, even without being outdoors. Lastly, use bright full-spectrum light bulbs in your home or office, which mimic natural light, as opposed to those dim, artificial bulbs that just make everything drabber and drearier.
6. Make a Book and Movie List
There is no better time to curl up with a good book or catch up with those movies you have meant to watch. If you are in a cold climate, set yourself up in a snuggly corner on the couch with your favorite blanket and a nice warming cup of tea and lose yourself in a good book or movie. Studies have shown that humor can help to relieve pain, so try to watch uplifting, funny movies, or read a book that can make you laugh out loud.
7. Hang with Positive People
People have the ability over others to influence their outlook. This is why it is especially important to surround yourself with positive people when spending a lot of time indoors with them. If you are around people who are generally happy, you will be more likely to be happy yourself. On the flip side, research has shown that risk factors for depression can actually be contagious when social environments are in flux.
8. Set Your Alarm Clock and Stick to a Sleep Routine
Sleep is one of the most important lifestyle habits that can influence health, but it is also one of the most overlooked. It may be tempting to sleep in on dark mornings but sticking to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can go a long way to fighting many health problems. It is also important to get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. You can ensure a good night’s rest by ensuring your sleeping area is comfortable, slightly cool, and free of any noisy distractions.
9. Give Yourself a Manageable Task to Accomplish
We all have those to-do jobs that we never seem to get around to doing. This is the perfect opportunity to build this in as a task to accomplish during the day. Even a small chore such as cleaning the bathtub can give you a sense of competence and accomplishment. There should be a good balance of hard work with little things that bring you pleasure.
10. Book a Staycation — Even If It’s a Mini One
More and more people are beginning to realize how nice a staycation can be. You don’t need to travel halfway across the world to relax and enjoy a vacation. Try booking a day at a spa near your home or make reservations at a new restaurant you have meant to try. No matter your interests, you can still get a boost by planning mini-getaways close to home. After your daily excursions, just kick back at home and forget about any chores that need tending to.
Winter Blues Food Tips to Help Ease Symptoms
Lean proteins carry plenty of amino acids, which can positively affect your mood. By adding many healthy types of meat into your daily diet, you can boost your energy levels and beat the fatigue that many people feel during the winter months. Try salmon, rib-eye steak, or lentils if you prefer a vegetarian option.
Eat Enough Carbs
Carbs are often given a bad name for those trying to lose weight, but they can be helpful when trying to boost your mood. Many nutritionists agree that wholesome carbs such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are especially key in the winter months. Carbohydrates are an indirect way to manipulate tryptophan to boost mood. Carbohydrates allow tryptophan to breach the blood-brain barrier by pushing it into the cells, thereby creating serotonin.
Many Americans do not get enough fiber, but berries can help with this. Fiber is a driver of good bacteria in the gut, which is where 90% of all serotonin is generated. Some berries have also been shown to reduce cortisol, a hormone that can affect mood. Go ahead and enjoy a bowl of mixed berries or add them topping on some unsweetened yogurt.
By keeping dopamine levels stable, legumes are able to keep your mood in check. Lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas have vitamins such as folate and vitamin B6, which help to regulate mood. Try adding them to salads or enjoy a cup of chili packed full of beans and lentils to help lighten your mood.
Limit Sugar Intake
While we are focusing on what to eat for a better mood, we cannot ignore the food that we should avoid the most. Everyone knows that sugar is bad for health, but many times when we are feeling down, a sugary treat is the first thing we reach for. It may provide a happy sensation at first, by studies show that too much sugar can functionally change your brain and slow it down. The crash after eating sugar can also easily make you feel worse than you did before.
Eggs offer a full variety of health benefits, including amino acids, omega-3, vitamin D, and fatty acids. As the brain is about 60% fat, the healthy fatty acids in the eggs are the key. Try adding a couple of eggs into a daily diet to reap the benefits.
This essential vitamin has been linked to depression, so it is important to get enough. Vitamin D is available through direct sunlight or food. As winter months make it hard for many people to get the vitamins from sunlight, food is the best way to keep your levels up. Eggs, mushrooms, and some fish with bones are excellent food sources of vitamin D.
Have a brighter, happier winter
Try these simple tips to fight those low feelings that often come with the short, darker days of winter. This way, you’ll get through the season renewed and energized – spring will be here before you know it!