If long winter nights and short days have you feeling down, you’re not alone.
Around 20 percent of people get some form of what’s termed “the winter blues.” In addition, an estimated 4 – 6 percent of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is the clinical version of the winter blues.
While it’s more common for people who live in cold, northern climates to get the winter blues or SAD, anyone can experience symptoms.
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Sleeping more than normal
- Avoidance of social situations
- Appetite changes, including craving starchy foods (e.g., pasta and bread)
Even if your location doesn’t experience bitterly cold temperatures, your body might still struggle when it doesn’t get as much daylight as it wants.
Short days and long nights can impact your circadian rhythm, throwing off your sleep patterns, hormones, and mood in very real ways. Add the stress of the holiday season to create the perfect recipe for feeling blue all winter long.
Fight the Winter Blues with These 5 Habits
Having a game plan for tackling the winter blues can help you feel more like yourself. Here are some things to add to your daily routine during the winter season.
Move every day
We know. It’s tempting to spend your winter days and nights curled up by a fire on the couch. But moving is essential for your mental well-being. Make it a habit to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. You can break it up into smaller chunks of time. For example, move for 10 minutes when you wake up, 10 minutes around lunchtime, and 10 minutes before dinner.
If it’s not icy out, head outdoors for a walk or run during daylight hours. If you need to stay indoors, look for fitness videos online (there are tons for free on YouTube), or make up your own workout by doing a mix of moves like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, jumping jacks, and running in place.
Find a social outlet
It’s natural for the holidays to bring out your social anxiety, especially if there are tensions in your family. So, make plans with friends and family members you actually want to see. You’ll get an instant mood boost by talking to someone whose company you genuinely enjoy.
It’s natural for your body to crave carbs during the winter months. While there’s nothing wrong with giving in now and then, make sure you’re also eating enough of the good stuff (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein). Experiment with new recipes using seasonal ingredients like squash, eggplant, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.
Get your vitamin D
Our bodies make vitamin D from the sun, which is why it’s so important for adults and kids to get outside every day (even in the winter). Aim to be outdoors during the daylight hours for 20 minutes a day and take a vitamin D supplement.
Embrace the season
You don’t have to be “on” all winter long! Instead, embrace the season by stocking up on some good books, bingeing some holiday movies, and sitting by the fire. Taking time to relax will do wonders for your well-being.
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