With the cooler months before us, it’s easy to find yourself inside more than usual. With the change in patterns and scheduled activity, one of the things you need to watch out for is your mood. It can be subtle, but before you know it, you find yourself heading toward a dose of winter blues.
Is there a way to get ahead of the winter blahs, and chase them away before they start? Yes, keep reading to learn more.
First, it’s important to mention there are two types of feeling down. Knowing the difference can be enlightening, so you know which path to take.
If you find yourself oversleeping, sluggish, dealing with appetite changes, feeling more agitated than usual, and unable to bounce back from a doldrum, consider discussing the situation with your doctor. Some people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and there is help.
With that in mind, here are five actionable and useful tips that will help combat and chase away the winter blues before they start.
5 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues
It’s easy to read something and go, sure, I know…but when you’re feeling stuck and unable to bounce back to your normal self, take action. Try one of these tips. There’s science behind them, and each tip is cited from a medical or educational resource.
- Physical activity can elevate your mood
- Light therapy can make an impact
- Connect with others
- Volunteering helps keep depression at bay
- Food changes can help with mood
Let’s Beat the Winter Blues Guaranteed
When it comes down to it, exercise helps keep depression at bay. It’s hard to get moving when you’re not motivated, but once you get going, you’ll find your endorphins kicking in. According to Mayo Clinic exercise can, “…ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better” and “…may also keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.”
Consider walking, hiking, biking, kickboxing, yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, dancing, or whatever intrigues you, just get moving! Plan a day trip to go skiing or snow tubing with the kids. What other activities can you think of that get you excited? Are you a Zumba fan? Love Barre or Pilates? Salsa or ballroom dancing?
RWJ (Robert Wood Johnson) Barnabas Health says that light therapy can help. They state, “…light therapy. The patient sits or works near a device called a light therapy box, which gives off a bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. For some people, this treatment is very effective…”
Now, take in mind, this doesn’t mean simply switching your house lightbulbs to brighter bulbs. There are specific lights created for this. Some people also use the term blue light, so if you’re searching for light therapy boxes, consider that you might also see this popular term. Always read reviews or speak with your doctor if you’re not sure what would be helpful for your situation.
Connect with Others
According to the National Health Services in the UK, “Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. They can help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth…”
This makes complete sense, because when we’re feeling down it’s easy to isolate ourselves. Who wants to go out and socialize when we’re not feeling our best? Even connecting with others via online chat groups, video conferencing, and other means can help if you’re quarantined due to the rolling pandemic issues. Find ways of reaching out for connection. We rely on human connection more than we know. Being part of something enhances your self-worth.
On a similar note to connecting with others, this boosts your well-being. But according to Mount Sanai, volunteering, “…… can improve mental health and how satisfied you feel with your life,” which in turn helps keep depression at bay. They also go on to list other tips and ways to chase away the winter blues, if you’re looking for more information.
There are multiple ways of volunteering, and many avenues based on what interests you. Whether you choose to help at the animal shelter, drive cancer patients to appointments, help at your local school or church with administrative tasks or with children, collect clothing for those in need, or volunteer at the food bank or local library, the choice is yours. Check with your local rescue squad, veteran’s group, local senior centers where you can read to lonely residents, help with crafts, or teach things like computer skills—the list is endless.
Adapt Your Food Choices
It sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? Eat chocolate, you’ll feel better! The truth is, some foods release serotonin and dopamine which in turn helps boost your mood. According to a science journal from Dartmouth College, eating certain foods helps boost your mood.
They state, “Increased serotonin levels are related to mood elevation. Wurtman and Wurtman (1989) developed a theory suggesting that a diet rich in carbohydrates can relieve depression and elevate mood…” They continue to say that, “…Chocolate has a strong effect on mood, generally increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension.”
You don’t have to tell me twice. Chocolate is a win in my book. Just remember, moderation is your friend.
Power of Family
So, we’ve covered the basics like exercise, helping others, light therapy, connecting with your support system, and making tweaks to your diet. What else can you do?
Think about each of those options. Do you see what I see? Each of those is a great opportunity to not only make a change to help yourself but is something you can do with a family member.
Exercise: How about a bike ride with the kids?
Light Therapy: Story time while sitting near the light.
Connect with Others: Bring the kids over to visit with Grandma or a friend.
Volunteer: Help at the food bank together.
Food Choices: Pick out a fun recipe to create together.
When to Seek Professional Advice
It’s common to hear people say they’re down, depressed, sad, have the doldrums, the winter blues, seasonal issues and more. How do you know when to seek help? Like mentioned above, if you find your mood is lasting longer than usual, and you’re feeling indifferent and unable to get back to feeling like yourself, speaking with a doctor can help.
There are specific questions and information they look for to understand if what you’re feeling is a normal downturn, or if your depression may need to be treated in another way.
The National Institute of Mental Health has a good description of the different types of depressive issues people face. You can read the basics and see a list of common signs and symptoms to see if this is an area of concern for you.
Sometimes, what might feel big, can be reversed by taking action. Try these simple tips first to see if they help lift you up. You may be able to beat those winter blues before they ever get started. If not, that’s okay, too, and know that there’s no shame in seeking help.