January 19, 2022 3 min read
While many people look forward to winter activities and the change of seasons, for others, winter can be challenging. Shorter days make catching a glimpse of the sun seem as elusive as spotting Big Foot.
Gray skies, plummeting temps, navigating slushy roadways, and being cooped up for days can make the most optimistic person feel blah, or worse, stressed and lonely. These feelings of lethargy, hopelessness, and lack of motivation are classic symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the "winter blues" or seasonal depression.
You're not alone if you experience these feelings. About one in five people experience SAD during the winter.[i] But don't fret! There are actions you can take to alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression. Here are our top five steps to fight off the winter blues.
5. Knock Out Your To-Do List
Winter is a great time to complete some indoor projects you've been putting off. Like reorganizing closets or sprucing up the décor. Doing so during the winter when your calendar is lighter will make you more productive and help you focus on the task at hand instead of dwelling on negative feelings that bring you down. Completing even the most minor tasks, such as daily chores, will give you a sense of competency and achievement, which helps maintain well-being.[ii]
4. Eat a Balanced Diet with Vitamin D
Eating healthy has as much to do with avoiding foods that are bad for your body as it does with eating moderately to help with the winter blues. For example, eliminating or reducing your intake of alcohol (which is a depressant) will help you feel more alert. Replacing foods high in sugar and processed carbs with high-density foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins) will make you feel fuller for more extended periods and decrease the risk of feeling weighted down.[iii]
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, low levels of vitamin D — caused by inadequate dietary intake or not enough sunlight exposure — are common in people with SAD. Adding vitamin D-rich foods (salmon, tuna, eggs, mushrooms) and vitamin D supplements to your diet may help.[iv]
3. Get Movin' and Groovin'
Twenty minutes of exercise three to four times a week has been shown to reduce depression, relieve stress, and improve cognitive function.[v] When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that boost your mood. Whether you choose to work out at home, run outside in the park, or join a gym, the key is being consistent. The exercise method is less important than the discipline to do it regularly.
2. Be a Social Butterfly
Spending time with acquaintances, friends, and family members (the ones who don't cause you stress) is a crucial step to fighting the winter blues. Studies have found a causal relationship between social isolation and depression.[vi] Sadly, isolation has become too common for many people because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we need social interaction; it's just as important as diet and exercise. Whether catching up with friends for lunch, attending a book club meeting, or going to church for weekly worship, connecting with others is essential for our mental well-being. Online video chatting is a good – temporary – alternative when live and in-person meetups are not an option.
1. Soak Up the Sun
Take advantage of what little sunlight there is during the winter months by planning outdoor activities during the daytime. Getting as much natural light as possible helps reduce wintertime SAD.[vii] If you work during the day, step outside during your lunch break, aiming for noon when the sun is brightest. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the great outdoors. Text your friends and set up a time to go sled-riding, skiing, or ice fishing. Taking a WeatherPod® along will also make braving the cold that much easier by keeping you warm and toasty while you're outside.
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