By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
When I was a young girl I remember reading Little House On The Prairie and imaging what life was like in the winter back in those days. From what I recall, back then winter meant staying indoors for months, knitting, snowing, mending, cooking and basically trying to stay warm and avoid blizzards. Well now we have central heat, indoor plumbing and electricity to help combat the harsh outdoors. But we still have issues with the winter.
For those of us that don’t suffer from actual Seasonal Affective Disorder but are feeling the effects of winter, SparkPeople has some great tips on keeping your mood up this time of year. Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor Health Educator wrote a great post, “10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues.” I’ve provided an excerpt below. Read Nicole’s entire article at Spark People here.
The “winter blues” are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during this cold season. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here.
1. Exercise: Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too
2. Eat a Healthy Diet: Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit) and get your daily 8 cups of water.
3. Get Some Rays: Did you know that sunlight improves your mood? Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors. Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to “full spectrum” bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing.
4. Act on Your Wellness Goals: A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy.
5. Avoid Binge Drinking: Many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling down. But alcohol is actually a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting) is never a healthy choice.
6. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To: Plan something that’s exciting to you—a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party (but keep #5 above in mind), or special event like a play, girls (or guys) night out, or sporting event.
7. Make relaxation part of your life: Work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings—even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some time off. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to extra opportunities (covering a shift for a co-worker, bringing food to your son’s class party). Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class.
8. Embrace the Season: Instead of always avoiding the cold and the snow—look for the best that it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding!
9. Get Social Support: Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email or letter can brighten your mood.
10. Sleep Well: With a little time management, and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Try not to oversleep—those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. Don’t forget naps! A short (10-30 minute) afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize midday.
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- Sharon Duke Estroff: The Sunny Side of This Weekend’s Snow Storm (huffingtonpost.com)
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