Overcoming the Winter Blues

By: Leah R., Lifestyle Consultant, St. Cloud Livea

Do you feel the lingering effects of the winter blues? Well, you are not alone. The lack of sunshine and warmth can take a toll on our mood and even our health. Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder affects over 10 million people in the US. This disorder can have mild symptoms to severely debilitating symptoms. There are things we can do to minimize the stress of the season and help relieve us of seasonal depression. Here are some suggestions that may or may not work for you. Feel free to test out some different strategies to see what will work for you. If you are looking to increase your happiness and wellbeing, it is in your control!

The best way to boost your mood is by practicing the behaviors that are linked to an overall positive mindset. Some of these things include spending time with loved ones, giving appreciation to what you have, choosing an optimistic outlook on things, showing gratitude, having a sense of purpose, and taking it a day at a time. If these behaviors seem out of reach, just start with only focusing on one or two at a time. As you practice these behaviors you will get better at them and then can incorporate more of them as needed. There are also some other strategies to help boost your mood if you need extra support. These 5 tips can help enhance your mood along with practicing your behaviors:

  1. Get sufficient vitamin D – Studies show that being deficient in Vitamin D may play a role in depression and other mental disorders! For women, it is a vital nutrient for a woman’s physical and mental health.
  2. Get sunlight or light therapy – light can affect our serotonin and melatonin levels. This not only affects our mood but can cause cognitive impairments. Sunlight and light therapy will help regulate our circadian rhythm, increase our alertness and memory function. A study found that one hour of light therapy every morning for 2 weeks significantly reduced depression in people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
  3. Get some exercise – Any additional exercise can really help boost your mood. Studies found that even adding in extra movement like walking, stretching and housework can improve your mood. Finding an activity with friends can increase your happiness even more by building self-esteem and teamwork! Playing sports, dancing, swimming, and other social activities can feel more like playing and having fun instead of work.
  4. Eat healthy foods – Diets high in processed meats, refined grains, high fat dairy, and low in fruits and vegetables are linked to an increased risk of depression. Eating lots of plants, whole grains, lean proteins like chicken and fish and low-fat dairy products can help you feel your best.
  5. Be around happy people – A study by Dr. Nicholas Christakis and Dr. James Fowler found that people who spend their time around other people who have a happier attitude, they themselves had happier demeanor and a healthy wellbeing. Listen to the way people speak around you. Are you hearing positive or negative comments and behaviors? Limiting your time around people that are less happy and have a negative attitude can help to reduce the negativity around you. These behaviors can be emotional draining on us. It’s important to set healthy boundaries with others to allow us to be in an environment that we can feel good in.
  6. Meditation – spending a few minutes each day meditating can help reduce stress and help you to relax. It is a great tool to reduce negative emotions, increase self-awareness, develop more creativity and new perspectives.

Practicing these strategies may boost your mood quickly and some may take more time.  Finding what works for you will have a huge positive impact on your over health and wellbeing. If you feel depressed or have suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a medical provider, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for help.

References:

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/depression
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/how-to-be-happy/art-20045714
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2728098/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309
  7. https://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blog/2012/10/surround-yourself-happy-people-be-happy
  8. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise#:~:text=Participation%20in%20regular%20physical%20activity,people%20experiencing%20mental%20health%20problems.
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858