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FOUR WAYS TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

It seems that life slows down a little in winter.  As the days get shorter, and colder some of us would like to just hibernate until spring time. Shorter days and shifts in weather seem to zap our energy, get us down, and we feel unmotivated to do anything – it’s the winter blues. Going to work and coming home in the dark doesn’t help the situation either. The winter blues shouldn’t hinder our ability to enjoy life though. Here are four things we can all benefit from to help overcome the winter blues.

Get more sunlight – Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Spend time outdoors. Take a walk during the day.  Open curtains to let sunshine in, or sit near a window. Sunlight, even in the small doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Taking a vacation to a sunnier climate is a good idea if you can work it in.

Exercise – Build more physical activity into your life to relieve stress, build energy and increase both your physical and mental well-being and resilience. Set your exercise equipment near a window. (And be sure to use it!) Exercise is a powerful way to boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals.

Make a habit of taking a daily noon-hour walk, particularly if you commute to school or work in darkness. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of walking. This can give you a dose of sunlight and exercise at the same time. Take the dog for a walk with you.  You both will be happier.


Meditate – Practicing daily relaxation techniques can help you manage stress, reduce negative emotions such as anger and fear, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, meditation, guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation.


Take Vitamin D and Herbal Supplements –
Some people find that St. Johns Wort helps improve their mood. St. John’s Wort is an herbal remedy that has proven as effective as Prozac in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.  (Do not combine any herbals with prescription medications without your physician’s direction.)
A study published in 2014 the journal Nutrients found that people who took vitamin D supplements saw significant improvement in their moods. Low levels of vitamin D due to less sun exposure in winter were linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in research reported in 2014 in the journal Medical Hypotheses.


How do I know if I have SAD?

So how do you know if it’s just the winter doldrums or a more serious problem? If your winter blues start permeating all aspects of your life – from work to relationships – you may be experiencing SAD. SAD is a category of depression that occurs mainly in fall and winter every year, and it becomes an issue when is it limits our ability to live our lives to the fullest, to enjoy our families, and function well at work. It drains our happiness. 

About 4 to 6 percent of U.S. residents suffer from SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it. Below are some of the symptoms of SAD.

  • incessant sleeping or trouble getting a good night’s sleep,
  • fatigue and lethargy
  • weight gain and cravings for sugary and starchy foods
  • feeling sad, guilty and down or hopeless, irritable, tense and stressed
  • avoiding people or activities one normally enjoys
  • having suicidal thoughts

Sure, everyone has days in the winter when they feel sluggish or unmotivated, and may experience any of these things at some time, but SAD is when you have many of these symptoms for an extended period of time during the same season each year, and it affects your ability to function or go about your daily activities.  If you think you have SAD, you may want to talk to a doctor who can help rule out any other causes for your symptoms like a thyroid dysfunction.

Whether you have SAD or not, everyone can benefit from the four activities above to overcome the winter blues or even mild cases of SAD.

Blues Buster – Cheer up now!  The best blues buster is just around the corner.  Spring – Wednesday, March 20th.


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