Seven Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
Do you find winter a difficult time for both your physical and mental health? It isn’t called the ‘winter blues’ for nothing. In fact, there’s even a scientific term for it: SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, many of us find ourselves having trouble getting out of bed and facing the day. Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterised by symptoms such as oversleeping, persistent depression, tiredness and lack of energy, weight gain, feelings of hopelessness and changes in appetite. The winter blues are no walk in the park! In this article, we show you seven ways to lift your spirits and make it through the winter months.
1. Get outside
It might sound a little counterintuitive but getting outside in the winter months can do wonders for your mood. On the Gold Coast, we’re lucky enough to enjoy some truly beautiful sunshine during the winter months, albeit for shorter bursts each day. So, rug up in your warmest gear and head outside this weekend to soak up some of that winter sun and boost your spirits (and your vitamin D levels)!
2. Speaking of vitamin D…
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults is around 600 international units (IUs), but up to 5,000 IUs is suggested by some experts. We get much of our vitamin D from food sources such as oily fish, milk and eggs, however, exposure to the sun can help us to increase our ability to produce the vitamin. So, when the days are colder and we’re spending less time outdoors, many of us will struggle to produce the same levels of vitamin D that we’re used to and feel sluggish as a result. Taking a vitamin D supplement or increasing your intake of vitamin D-rich foods will help to overcome this.
Most of us tend to exercise less in winter simply because it’s colder outside and getting out for a run or some sport when it’s chilly is less appealing. However, exercise is one of the most effective ways to raise your spirits during the winter months. Exercising increases your levels of ‘happy hormones’ such as dopamine and serotonin and as a bonus, also helps you to sleep better and therefore find yourself with more energy each day. No matter what time of the day you find time for exercise (whether the sun’s out or not), it will give you a much-needed boost and will help you to avoid the all-too-common winter weight gain.
4. Catch up with friends
The winter blues can create a vicious cycle when it comes to feeling low and staying indoors. Due to decreased energy levels and feeling depressed, we are less likely to want to get out of the house, which means we can become reclusive. This, in turn, is no good for our mental health. Making the effort to catch up with family and friends can be an excellent morale booster and help to beat the winter blues, so be sure to schedule in some quality time this winter and break the cycle. Why not combine your efforts to get outdoors with your catch-ups, and go for a walk, run, or participate in some sport together?
5. Embrace the chill
Sitting in bed and wishing for summer is one way to ensure that your winter is miserable. Instead, try finding activities that you can enjoy in winter and embrace them! Whether it’s a trip to the ski slopes or heading out to enjoy some of the Gold Coast’s popular winter festivals (including Cooly Rocks On and SeaFire), there is plenty of fun to be had in the chillier months. Another great way to make the most of this winter is to enjoy some wintery foods. Slow cookers, for example, make it easy to create healthy meals that will warm the heart (and the tummy) when it’s cold outside. Be sure to pack in plenty of vegetables to your soups and stews, as it will have you feeling good inside and out!
6. Start a new project or learn a new skill
Studies show that learning a new skill is great for our brains (read our article all about how learning a new skill can help you live longer) and gives us something to focus on when we’re feeling less motivated than usual. Use the winter months to start a new project such as a DIY home improvement, or learn something new, like a musical instrument, a language, or even learn to cook some new winter dishes. It will keep your mind busy and boost your brain power, to boot!
7. Remember self-care and don’t forget to reach out
Despite your best efforts to get outdoors, exercise, or learn a new skill, you will likely still experience some dips in your mood and your energy this winter. The important thing to remember is that it’s completely normal and you’re not alone. If you already suffer from anxiety or depression, these months can be particularly challenging. Be sure to take some time for self-care during these times. That might mean taking some ‘me time’, running a bath, snuggling up with a good book or a watching an uplifting movie. However, if you’re feeling like you could use some extra support, don’t wait. Reach out to a counsellor who can help to support you and can assist you in creating strategies for battling those winter blues. There’s no need to suffer alone, and some expert support can make all the difference.