If you dread the arrival of winter, you are not alone. When faced with colder temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, many people experience feelings of depression, disrupted sleep, increased fatigue, and a more difficult time concentrating. Luckily, there are steps you can take to feel better and beat the winter blues.
You probably know that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that it can also improve your mental health? Physical activity gives you a greater sense of well-being by reducing stress, improving sleep, and increasing energy levels. Exercise has also been shown to boost your mood by decreasing symptoms of depression.
Sadly, when cold weather arrives, many people feel less motivated to exercise. Maybe you are a runner, and the snow and ice make your outings more difficult, or perhaps you go to the gym all summer but dread making the trek when it’s cold and dark outside.
To avoid this trap, be deliberate about exercising. Make exercise a consistent and non-negotiable part of your day, and aim to exercise at least 30 minutes daily. The type of exercise is up to you as long as it elevates your heart rate. If it’s difficult to find a 30-minute block of time, you can still benefit by scheduling a few shorter exercise sessions each day.
Up Your Vitamin D Levels
Having enough Vitamin D is important for your well-being. It reduces inflammation, increases immunity, fights depression, and strengthens bones and teeth by regulating calcium and phosphate levels.
Exposure to sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D, but the shorter winter days can make this more difficult. Thankfully, Vitamin D supplements can help. While the amount you should take depends on several factors, it’s generally safe to take between 600 and 1000 international units per day.
In addition to a regular Vitamin D supplement, it’s also wise to take a Vitamin D blood test periodically. Testing can confirm whether you are taking the correct amount, and in turn, whether you need to increase or decrease your dose.
Try Light Therapy
Sunlight increases serotonin levels and contributes to better mental health. Thus, one reason people suffer from the winter blues is that the shorter days provide fewer hours of sunlight.
To offset this, you can try light therapy with a therapy lamp that provides at least 10,000 lux. The lamp emits a bright light that is meant to mimic sunlight. Studies show that this artificial light can boost the brain chemicals needed to sleep well and feel happy.
Take a Break From Screens
With more time being spent indoors, people often spend more time online or in front of the television. It’s fine to be looking at screens for a few hours a day, but too much screen time can cause headaches, back pain, and eye strain. Additionally, studies show that adults who spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen have a greater chance of developing depression.
To offset these effects, try to limit the amount of time spent in front of screens. If you must be on a computer to do your work, you should avoid long stretches by scheduling frequent breaks to stretch, exercise, or socialize.
When the weather makes people less likely to venture out, social isolation can occur. To protect your mental health, make sure you stay in contact with your friends and family. FaceTime and other video calling platforms can help alleviate loneliness and depression when staying home is a necessity.
If you suffer from the blues every winter, be proactive by taking steps to combat it. Habits such as socializing, limiting screen time, regularly exercising, using a light therapy lamp, and making sure you get enough Vitamin D can provide you with the tools you need to feel your best.