For some people, winter is a time of joy, celebration, and family gatherings. For others, it’s the complete opposite. They constantly feel tired, have mood changes, and increased appetite – they are experiencing the so-called winter blues.
These are especially hard times – in the “normal”, pre-COVID days, you could reach out for help easier. It might not be as simple these days. Isolation and loneliness can make the effects of winter blues worse, which is why you should always have your ‘support system’ on speed dial – it might include your friends, family, partner, co-worker, just anyone you feel comfortable with.
Unfortunately, in the situation we are now, there are slim chances of meeting up with others in real life. Nevertheless, you can still talk to them on the phone, organize a virtual game or movie night, etc.
There are also many other ways in which you can increase your energy level, as well as improve your mood. Want to find out more? Then stay with us!
Recognize the Causes: Winter Blues vs. SAD
Winter blues is a common phenomenon that plenty of people experience. However, if your mood starts taking a toll on every aspect of your life, the chances are that it’s not just winter blues that you are going through, but SAD – seasonal affective disorder.
Although very similar, SAD affects the person’s life much more, as they often exhibit major depressive disorder, including difficulties with sleeping and eating.
SAD usually starts around late fall or early winter and doesn’t go away until late spring or early summer. Although it is still unknown what actually causes it, some of the major contributors include the reduced level of sunlight, as well as decreased melatonin and serotonin levels.
SAD is something that needs to be treated. The treatment includes but is not limited to light therapy, also known as phototherapy, psychotherapy, and medications. If you suspect that you might be experiencing SAD, consult a doctor – preferably a psychiatrist.
However, going back to the topic. There are many ways to overcome winter blues – some of which we have listed below.
1. Exercise Regularly to Beat the WInter Blues
Although you might not feel like getting out of bed, regular exercise is one of the crucial steps of overcoming the winter blues. As experts from PrimalHarvest.com say, “Exercise can help boost endorphins (the “feel-good” hormone) and give your mood the positive boost it needs […] Even brisk walking or taking the stairs can make a difference in your mood and help you feel more energetic.”
Apart from its positive effect on your mental health, regular exercise can improve your physical health, too. Not only does it strengthen your immune system, but it also helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of breast, colon, and endometrial cancers.
However, we understand that it’s very hard to work out when all you want to do is lay in bed all day and wait until winter is over – especially if you aren’t someone who is used to exercising. So, instead of forcing yourself to a long workout session, why don’t you try dividing it into small chunks?
For instance, if you set a goal for yourself that you’ll be walking 45 minutes a day, divide that time into three mini-workouts – 15 minutes each. You can complete the first one in the morning, the second during the afternoon hours, and the last one before it gets dark.
2. Take a Break from the News
During the winter months, when it’s cold outside and the night is longer than the day, the amount of time we spend inside our house increases. This means that we have more free time at hand, which usually ends up being spent on watching TV or browsing the web. However, those two are the main sources of news.
While it may be good to keep up with information from all over the world, watching too many news outlets can increase your winter blues and make you feel sad and stressed.
It is especially true now, with the COVID-19 pandemic still being present and half of the news being dedicated to this matter. It is exactly why you should try to reduce the amount of time you spend in front of the screen.
3. Boost Your Mood With Food
It’s often the simplest things that make the biggest difference – such as food. By simply reconsidering what you eat for breakfast, dinner, and supper, you can enhance your mood, as well as prevent carbs and sugar cravings later in the day.
A good idea is to enrich your diet with foods that contain high levels of vitamin D. Fish oil, fatty fish, milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereal are just a few examples of those.
As it was stated in a paper titled Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis, there is a noticeable link between low vitamin D levels and being prone to depression, so you should always keep it at the right level.
4. Keep Up Your Sleeping Routine
It is common knowledge that sleep influences mood – if you don’t sleep well, you usually don’t feel well. What’s more, if you don’t sleep an appropriate amount of time, your circadian rhythm might get disrupted – this also disrupts your cortisol rhythms, as well as impacts hormone production.
Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep:
- wake up and go to bed at the same time every day
- follow a simple bedtime routine that will allow you to relax not only your body but also your mind – take a bath, drink a cup of herbal tea, turn all the lights off, etc.
- once you wake up, expose yourself to light (you can, for example, open the curtains if you keep them closed at night)
- sleep in a dark and cool room
- don’t use electronic devices in your bedroom – that means no phone, no tablet, no computer
5. Seek Out the Sunshine
Even though it’s winter, and probably the last thing on your mind is going outside, it’s important that you do it anyway, as the symptoms of both SAD and winter blues can worsen due to the lack of exposure to the sun.
How exactly does being in the sunlight help? Well, first of all, it helps balance serotonin activity as well as your circadian rhythm. It also increases melatonin production and vitamin D level – all of which can lead to the improvement of your emotional state.
If going outside is not an option for you, don’t worry. You can always move your chair or desk so that it will be next to the window, making you exposed to sunlight. Do it for at least one to two hours per day. If you cannot sit for that long at once, divide it into shorter chunks.
6. Take Care of Your Skin
It is no secret that winter is not the best time for your skin – low temperatures and the drop of humidity levels definitely take a toll on your complexion. However, this might be exactly the push you need to take care of your skin and reevaluate your skincare routine.
Think about your skincare products – are they adequate to your skin type? Maybe one of the products you use does not work as well as it used to? Since during winter we usually don’t go out as much, it might be the perfect time to try out some new things.
If you are not sure what you should do, and what products will be worth trying, you can always schedule a dermatologist appointment. They will be able to help you establish which ingredients of beauty products you should avoid and which ones should become your holy grail.
You can also talk to your regular doctor about some beauty supplements so that you can give your skin a boost not only from the outside but also from the inside.
Many people feel better mentally when they look good, so why not give it a try? Your skin will definitely thank you for that. It’s a win-win if you ask us.
The Bottom Line
Winter blues is not uncommon – plenty of people experience it during the winter months. However, it’s important to recognize whether what you are dealing with is simple winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Although very similar, SAD affects a person’s life way more. If you are experiencing any symptoms of SAD, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional, as you might need treatment (for example, light therapy).
However, if it’s only winter blues, you’re in luck, as there are many ways to beat it by yourself, most likely without any professional help being necessary – some of which we have listed above.
Next time you’re feeling down, try implementing at least one of them into your life, and see how it affects your energy levels, as well as your mood. If it doesn’t work, you can try another one until you find something that works just fine for you. Good luck!