Winter is undoubtedly many people’s least favorite seasons out of the four. With all of the holiday activities, December usually goes by pretty quickly, then the rest of the winter can seem to drag on for many people due to the cold and cloudy, dark days. By the time spring rolls around, some of us are sick to death of shivering and yearning for warmth and sunlight.
You likely understand exactly what I mean if you reside somewhere with a cold, dark winter. I have spent a lot of time in Scandinavia as I have family in Norway and I studied in Finland while at University – the Winter’s there were colder than here in the UK and got a lot less daylight – I know many find that really tough going.
Here, I’m sharing some good things about winter and offering up some tips for staying cheerful while enduring those seemingly gloomy, chilly months. None of these suggestions are particularly innovative or groundbreaking necessarily, but they are the kinds of things that many of us are most likely to overlook during the winter months.
So, without further ado, let’s look at some tips to beat the winter blues each year.
1. Spend More Time Outside
The very last thing many of us want to do when the temperature drops close to or below freezing is to wrap up and go outside. A cup of tea and staying in bed with cozy blankets sounds a thousand times more appealing to many of us. In the winter, I venture outside every day as I have a dog to walk or I have some running training to do by the sea where I live.
Despite these things, the prospect of venturing outside in the bitter cold or rain or grey skies can make me turn back, but getting some fresh air really does help. I make an effort to remind myself of how nice and refreshing and energising the crisp, fresh air will be whenever I’m tempted to hibernate.
2. Light Therapy
Even though the winter sun isn’t nearly as strong or bright as it is during the summer, being outside in the sunshine always helps, and the more light we can get during these shorter days, the better. And if you detest the cold as much as many do, even sitting next to a sunny window can lift your spirits a bit.
So spending more time outside is also a great way to get light therapy. But if you don’t want to set your foot outside this season, or if there is no sunshine to enjoy, you can also try light therapy indoors. For seasonal depression, some people find light therapy to be helpful.
Sitting in front of a light box for a certain period of time each day during the winter is one way to receive light therapy at home. When compared to standard home and office lighting, light boxes emit extremely bright light that come with great instructions for matching your requirements.
There are many that can be bought online for a range of budgets and many have official approval from health agencies of varying kinds. I have one from a company called Breuler and it is very good.
According to Sue Povlovich from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, “Some people find that using a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, that mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually as well as a light box can enhance the beneficial effect.” There is compelling evidence to support the use of light therapy for advancing dopamine levels when used first thing in the morning.
3. Sleep Early
Before the invention of modern electricity, people often went to sleep with the sun. The majority of people in earlier eras, even with candles and lamps, would not have been able to afford to waste candles or lamp oil by staying up late into the night like many of us do today. The average person would have slept considerably more than we do now during the dimmer winter months.
Even though it can be tempting to stay up late to accomplish more, one of the best things we can do for our moods and general health in the winter is to turn off the lights a little earlier and get a little more rest.
It is important to maintain your sleep hygiene during the winter months to avoid SAD. Your body clock may signal you to begin preparing for bed when it is dark outside at 4:30 p.m. It’s crucial that you keep to a regular sleep schedule despite the change. It is simple to feel drowsy and start longing for extra winter naps when it is cold outside, which can result in nights of disturbed sleep.
According to Tina Waters, M.D. “One sleep model makes us want to sleep, while a different one regulates our sleep cycle. So that we can actually fall asleep, we want them to be in alignment. You won’t be as exhausted at night as you should be because napping resets the body’s drive to sleep.”
4. Eat Healthy
Naturally, maintaining a healthy diet is important throughout the year, but the winter is when it’s really worth being particularly mindful of (especially as the festive season presents us with lots of opportunity for less healthy options!). It’s simpler to give up on trying to eat healthy foods and just eat junk food when we aren’t surrounded by the abundance of all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available during summertime.
However, eating nutrient-dense, natural foods during the winter is just as important as avoiding processed foods loaded with artificial ingredients. At this time of year, it can also be beneficial to concentrate on consuming more cooked, warming foods like heartier soups and stews and root vegetables as opposed to raw, cooling foods like salads.
5. Welcome Fresh Air into your Home
The air we breathe all day can become stagnant and almost suffocating because of how much time we spend indoors during the winter and how tightly sealed up our homes and places of employment can be to keep out the cold. This is true even when it’s only 20 degrees outside.
The quality of the air we breathe can be quite poor when you factor in all of the synthetic chemicals found in the majority of perfumes, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners. Make every effort to improve the quality of the air inside your home by avoiding certain products being sprayed around when no windows are open, and occasionally opening the windows to let in fresh air, and maintaining houseplants.
6. Try Baking Your Favourite Comfort Foods
However, eating healthy need not preclude having enjoyable meals. Baking up some comfort foods to enjoy in moderation can help the winter months seem a little less depressing, even though overindulging in sweets may make you feel just as down as the gloomy days do. There is nothing quite as comforting as a warm, melty, rich, chocolatey dessert, or home baked cakes preferably enjoyed with a cup of tea while curled up under a warm quilt. You won’t even feel bad about indulging occasionally if you use natural, authentic, nutrient-dense ingredients!
7. Take up a New Hobby
It can be difficult to find activities that will keep you awake and interested during the cold and dark afternoons. Picking up a new hobby you can do at home or reviving an old one that you’ve forgotten about is one tactic you might want to think about. Knitting, crafts, woodworking, learning a new language, and writing are a few ideas. The best thing about these ideas is that you can carry out each one in the convenience of your own home and have something to do even on the gloomiest and coldest days.
Because they could take a break from all of the work of plowing, planting, and harvesting on their farms, farmers in the past found the winter season to be more relaxing. The winter season meant an extra period of rest while the land was also resting, even though there were still plenty of things to do.
We can feel less stressed and have happier moods during the winter by taking advantage of the natural rest cycle of winter and scheduling in a little extra time for relaxation rather than jam-packing our schedules with activities.
Most of us are significantly less active during the winter than we are during the summer due to the cold and snow. Exercise of any kind, as long as it gets you moving and you enjoy it, can help with the winter blues. Even though I have a big interest in sports and workout daily at the gym, I also like to walk and practice other activities, so make an extra effort to do similar things regularly during the winter.
10. Seek Professional Help
A mental health professional must diagnose SAD because it is often categorised as a type of depression. According to Dr. Pierce, there are several screening questions that can help identify whether or not someone is depressed.
Going to a medical professional can help you overcome SAD, in case you have it. Arlene Malinowski, PhD, 58, discovered she had SAD about 12 years ago after reading about the symptoms in a magazine article. She recalls, “I would notice a drop in how I felt and perceived the world in the winter.” It was confirmed by the psychiatrist she had been seeing for depression. Consider seeking out the assistance of a professional therapist, psychologist or speak to your GP if symptoms persist or become chronic.
11. Avoid Alcohol
According to psychologist Kim Burgess, PhD, founder of the Pediatric Psychology Center, people may drink more for a variety of reasons when under stress or depressed. She says that when someone is feeling down, they are more likely to drink alcohol, but this leads to more depression, which creates a vicious cycle. Additionally, she warns that if you start drinking more frequently or in larger quantities than you once did, these changes may eventually result in an addiction.
Burgess argues that it’s critical to ascertain the causes of the behaviour. She advises you to reflect on why you believe you are drinking more. Speaking with your doctor can also be helpful if you suspect you might have a drinking issue. We can get into regular routines of drinking alcohol during Winter and it is good to recognise this and know that it can have a depressing effect upon us.
12. Keep a Track of Days
I like to start observing how much lighter it gets at night once the holidays are over and we have passed the shortest, darkest Winter Solstice day. Sometimes it can serve as a reminder that Spring is coming eventually and that Winter won’t last forever to see how many minutes of sunlight we’re gaining each day and to count down the days until the clocks change and springtime arrives.
Even though you won’t be planting seeds in your garden for a few weeks yet, you should still consider your seeds in advance because just considering the various seed varieties and designing your garden makes you feel like Spring is getting a little bit closer. This can be real or metaphoric.
Even though some of the symptoms of SAD may be alarming to someone who is typically cheerful and full of life, their existence does not always imply that a diagnosis is unavoidable. Similar causes that lead to mild SAD symptoms in many people as those who are diagnosed with it. Addressing the signs will help you avoid contracting the winter blues. Hopefully, the tips shared here will help you avoid winter blues this season.
It is important to note that SAD affects each person differently, so what works for one person might not work for another. But if the first solution you try doesn’t work, there’s usually something that will, so don’t give up. Simply stay committed to the cause. In addition to the tips mentioned in this article, you can also consider participating in a support group. Sharing your experiences with those who have SAD can be very therapeutic and help you to cope with your symptoms.
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