Many people struggle every year with the “winter blues”. But what exactly are the winter blues?
The medical term for the winter blues is ‘seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression. This is a type of depression that is influenced by changes in the seasons and is often triggered by winter weather. The cold weather and dark nights that start creeping in around October time can really impact people’s mental and physical health.
Oftentimes, people suffering from the seasonal affective disorder aren’t even aware of it, and they put their mental health struggles down to other factors such as work, diet, or relationships. After all, surely the cold weather can’t be to blame for your sudden fatigue, low mood, and weight gain?
But countless scientific studies have proven that the winter months can be the cause of your seasonal depression. So, what can we do to beat the winter blues and enjoy the holiday season?
Make Use of Your Alarm Clock and Stick to a Sleep Schedule
One of the best ways to beat the winter blues is to make sure your circadian rhythm is in check. A healthy circadian rhythm is dependent on your sleep schedule. According to guidelines from the National Institutes of Health, healthy adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per twenty-four-hour cycle. (1)
It’s extremely important to do your best to stay active during the winter months. It may be tempting to stay stagnant, wrapped up in your favourite blanket on the couch, but doing exercise is a great way to beat the winter blues. It has been proven that exercise increases dopamine in the brain, which can help offset depressive symptoms and improve your well-being.
You could also consider joining a local fitness class or simply taking a little walk to a friend’s house. Maybe even stop for a sweet treat along the way!
Spend Time Outside
Spending time outside and getting some much-needed fresh air can really improve your mood and make you feel like you have more energy. Breathing fresh air raises your oxygen levels, which in turn increases the serotonin in your brain- great for improving low mood! So if you’re suffering from the winter blues, try putting on some warm clothes and take a walk around your local park- or even have a stroll to that new restaurant around the corner that you’ve wanted to try for ages.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D
Low vitamin D levels could be responsible for your seasonal depression. During the winter season, there’s considerably less sunlight than in those warm, summer months, and sunlight exposure is very important in making sure your body gets enough vitamin D. Scientific studies have found a causal link between vitamin D deficiency and depression– especially in older adults. (2) It’s, therefore, a good idea to make sure you spend time outside in the sun. However, during the long winter, when many people are travelling to and from work in the dark, that’s not always possible. What else can we do? Download this app, and watch the results!
A healthy diet filled with foods high in vitamins such as mushrooms, and also a good vitamin D supplement can also help boost your levels. Look out for vitamin D3 in particular!
Throw a Dinner Party!
With Halloween and Christmas coinciding with the winter months, you have the perfect excuse to host a dinner party or a get-together host for your friends! Socialising and spending time with friends can be great for your mental health. Enjoying good food and having fun with your loved ones are two amazing forms of self-care you should consider this winter if you’re feeling blue.
Learn a New Skill!
When you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, it can be very hard sometimes to want to do anything. However, on the days in which you feel able, it is a good idea to invest your time into learning something new. Whether it’s learning the basics of a new language from the comfort of your bed, or trying your hand at journaling. This can help distract you from difficult thoughts and feelings and improve your self-esteem.
Take Regular Hot Baths
Have you ever felt a little happier after a long, hot soak in a bubble bath? Well, there may be some science behind your change in mood! A small study found that a single hot bath a day for thirty minutes helped boost the participants’ mood. (3) Not to mention, submerging yourself in hot water is a great way of staying warm in the wintertime- even if it’s just a brief respite from the cold weather!
Use a To-Do List
As winter approaches and your winter blues set in, you may find it difficult to stay on top of things. Making use of to-do lists can help you remain productive and get the things that are most important to you done.
Create a Routine
Developing a routine, or doing your best to remain in your usual one, can help you beat the winter blues.
It’s also a good idea to create a self-care routine for those winter nights that will help reduce anxiety and boost those all-important serotonin levels. As mentioned in the previous tip, you could run yourself a hot bath, or maybe carry out a relaxing skincare routine that may help you feel good about yourself.
Consider Light Therapy
Light therapy can be a godsend for those suffering from the winter blues! The lack of sun in the winter months can really affect people’s mental health and general mood. The body functions more efficiently when it is exposed to enough healthy light each day. So, if you’re suffering from the winter blues, you may want to look into investing in a lightbox.
This tip may sound rather obvious, but many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder don’t realise how much relief from depressive symptoms staying warm can provide them.
Enjoy a Hot Cup of Tea
One of the easiest self-care tips out there for the winter blues is a hot drink! Regular hot drinks not only help you stay hydrated, but they can also help you stay warm and aid you in getting to sleep too. A delicious hot cup of cocoa can also release endorphins that will help you feel good this winter.
Keep a Healthy Diet
It’s a very good idea to do your best to keep to a nutritious diet during the winter season. As tempting as it can be, consuming a lot of foods high in sugar and carbohydrates may cause you to have sugar crashes that can worsen your fatigue. Sticking to whole grains is one way to avoid this. However, you don’t need to go overboard and suddenly begin following a strict diet. It’s important to have a healthy relationship with food, and you deserve to enjoy your favourite food this winter- whatever that may be!
Stay in Touch
When depression takes hold of you, you may find yourself withdrawing from loves ones and isolating yourself. This can worsen your depression considerably. It’s often vital for many people’s well-being to stay in regular touch with friends and family. So, if you suspect you have seasonal affective disorder, or you usually suffer from it, planning some meetups ahead of time might be a good way of making sure you’re not facing the winter blues alone.
Go See Your Healthcare Provider
There are a number of different treatments available if you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder, and none of these tips seem to help! Your healthcare provider can talk you through some of the options and make sure everything else is in order. You don’t have to fight the winter blues alone. There are apps that can also help and one-to-one online therapy sessions too.