Once the holiday season is over, winter can get kind of… depressing, especially for bulldoggers who live in areas where the temperature drops and snow falls. When you’re trying to maintain your New Year’s resolutions amid constant gloomy weather, experiencing constant cabin fever, and are just plain freezing, it’s easy to get bummed out. You might call it the winter blues.
The winter blues are a real thing. You may have heard it called Seasonal Affective Disorder or seasonal depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to a change in the seasons. Many people experience depressive symptoms in the colder months of the year. Low energy and moodiness are most common among those symptoms.
If this sounds familiar to you, it may be time that you pay a little extra attention to your mental health. These eight tips can help you fight those bummer winter blues.
1. Get a trip on the calendar.
Not seeing a light at the end of the long winter tunnel? Make your own!
If you can’t imagine getting through several more months of winter conditions, shop for deals on sunny weekend getaways that will get you out of dodge for a few days before spring comes around. Even if you can’t make a winter vacation work with your budget or calendar, starting to plan a trip for the spring or summer will give you something to look forward to and a warmer environment to dream about.
Keeping the budget so tight that a vacation seems totally out of reach? No problem. Gather some other anti-winter friends or family members and plan a staycation ASAP. It might not actually get you out of the winter weather, but it will take your mind off your low mood.
2. Focus on nutrition.
Managing nutrition is an important part of your wellness routine regardless of the season, but if you experience low moods in the winter, there are a few elements of your diet that you may want to pay extra attention to. Healthline recommends lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, salmon, flax seeds), berries, dark chocolate, and bananas for anyone dealing with the winter blues. Together, these foods can work to ensure that you have the nutrients you need to maintain your energy and elevate your mood.
And while we’re very against the idea of feeling guilty about what you eat, you should probably know that Healthline also recommends limiting sugar intake if you experience seasonal depression. Excess sugar can cause your brain to crash, which will only bring you down further emotionally.
3. Lighten up!
It may seem obvious, but if the low, gray light of winter is what’s bringing you down, you might find that brightening up your environment goes a long way toward helping you feel better.
Open up the blinds or curtains, trim back tree branches that block the view outside your window, and sit closer to windows and light whenever possible. Harvard Health says that sitting next to an artificial light can be as effective as medication for people who deal with seasonal depression.
4. Throw yourself a dance party.
It’s no secret that we’ll take a dance party whenever and wherever we can get one — regardless of how cold it is outside — but there’s proof that music and dancing can be especially beneficial for people who get the winter blues. In fact, Psych Central goes so far as to recommend dance classes as SAD treatment!
According to Psych Central, dance classes can help you beat the winter blues because of the way they integrate exercise and music with a sort of moving meditation — and in our experience, this is true of dance parties, too. Put on your favorite fuzzy socks, grab a friend (or your dog), and turn up the volume on those throwback tunes. After a few songs, you’ll forget that winter even brought you down.
5. Don’t overdo your screen time.
With cold winter temperatures and generally icky conditions happening outside, it can be all too easy to spend a lot more time than usual in front of your many screens inside. But resist the urge! It’s no secret that our dependence on screens isn’t doing anything for our mental health.
Instead of doing more with your screens in the winter, pick up a book, invite your family members to play a board game, or try whipping up some new recipes in the kitchen.
6. Supplement your Vitamin D.
Per a 2014 study, Vitamin D deficiency is a major cause of seasonal depression. Since sunlight is a leading natural source of Vitamin D, this totally tracks.
In the absence of Vitamin D from the sun, you can supplement your intake in other ways. Fatty fish (like tuna, mackerel, and salmon), cheese, and egg yolks are all high in Vitamin D. Other food items — like milk, orange juice, and cereal — are often fortified with it. Vitamin D supplements are always an option, too.
7. Get outside.
If winter conditions tend to hit you hard, leaving the cozy indoors to brave the chilly, gloomy elements may be low on your list… but we encourage you to bundle up and get some fresh air. According to the experts at Harvard Health, spending time outside has a slew of health benefits. One of those benefits? Improving your mood.
Per the Harvard article, light elevates mood (even when there’s very little to be found in the wintertime) and physical activity has proven to relax and cheer people up. Put the two together and you’ve got yourself a brisk walk on a winter day. While you may not be especially stoked to put on all of your warm gear and venture into the elements, you’ll be glad you did it!
8. Keep it movin’.
Whether you opt for that brisk walk outside or an at-home, butt-busting yoga session through bulldog online (no jacket necessary!), making time for exercise is a surefire way to help beat the winter blues.
Exercise has proven beneficial for mental health time and time again, and that’s true when it comes to SAD and lighter winter blues, as well. Per the Summit Medical Group, research shows that many people can manage their seasonal depression with regular 30-60 minute workouts. No matter the degree of your winter blues, moving your body will help you fight them!
Don’t let the winter blues get you down! Practice these tips to keep your mood sunny all year round…
1. Plan a vacation (or a staycation). Giving yourself something to look forward to will brighten up the winter days ahead.
2. Prioritize good nutrition. Eating lean proteins, berries, omega-3 fatty acids, dark chocolate, and bananas will help maintain your energy and mood.
3. Find the light. Fight the gloom by seeking out natural and artificial light whenever possible.
4. Dance it out! Music and movement can both help you fight seasonal depression, so you might as well put them together.
5. Stay away from screens. Mix up all the extra time you’re spending inside by reading, playing games, cooking, and exploring other screen-free fun.
6. Be intentional with Vitamin D. Eat Vitamin D-heavy foods or take supplements to balance out the lack of sunlight.
7. Take a walk. Getting fresh air — even if it’s cold and snowy — is beneficial for your mental health.
8. Exercise! Physical movement is also proven to combat the winter blues. If you work out at home, you don’t even have to brave the elements!
When all else fails, bulldoggers, picture yourself on a warm beach — and know that the winter blues will pass!
*Please consult with a mental health professional if you’re dealing with persistent anxiety or depression.
How do you beat the winter blues? Tell us on Instagram! (Boulder | Villanova)
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Berries image: Jaime Street/Unsplash; Winter walk image: Genessa Panainte/Unsplash