Fight Winter Melancholy with these Five Easy Tips
For some, winter means a change in mood from cheery holiday spirits to feelings of sadness, anxiety, or melancholy. A dip in temperatures creates a dip in mental health for some, especially when there’s a lack of sunlight. Sleeping patterns change, self-esteem decreases and isolation becomes the norm. If you’re tired of the doldrums, check out these five tips that are so easy to incorporate into your daily life they’ll become a habit in no time. It’ll bring back a pep to your step and add a sparkle to that smile.
Don’t bow your head in frustration and think you have to go full-out Tae-Bo. All you have to do is move enough to get your sleepy endorphins to wake up. Psychology Today says, “A recent 2010 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who engaged in regular physical activity – even non-sweat inducing mild activity – were less likely to be depressed than their sedentary counterparts. The intensity didn’t make a difference! A brisk walk and a long run had the same effect on reducing negative thoughts and feelings.”
If the weather permits, layer up and head out for a 30-minute walk. If you can’t go outdoors, and the gym isn’t your thing, stay active at home. Whether doing minimal stretching or getting into a workout video on YouTube, all that matters is that you spend some time moving your muscles and releasing those feel-good brain chemicals essentially boosting endorphins.
Check out these 10-minute workout videos by FitSugar, Jessica Smith and Fitnessblender. Once these become too easy, you can switch it up. Try strength training, yoga or, if you are feeling a bit adventurous, Pilates.
Just like we prepare our lives for seasonal changes, so should we prepare our mental health for darker days. Our mental health arsenal should be loaded with everything that makes us feel good. It should contain easy to follow plans of action for bouts of sadness. It should have reminders of our fabulous selves, and images that make us laugh and smile. It should include recipes for nourishing our belly and our soul. I recommend it become a project, like a visual board, which will keep you busy in thoughts of positivity. Or, you can keep it online and gather images in Pinterest or as a list on Todoist. The more you visualize empowerment, the easier it is to feel and achieve. And then, when you feel the blues coming on, you can lock and load into your mental health arsenal and trigger those feel good emotions.
If the change in mood becomes severe or you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, studies have shown it’s treatable with light therapy.
In a 2005 volume of The American Journal of Psychiatry, a study titled The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence says that “Meta-analyses revealed that a significant reduction in depression symptom severity was associated with bright light treatment […] and dawn simulation in seasonal affective disorder […] and with bright light treatment in nonseasonal depression.”
Light therapy involves exposure to sunlight or intense artificial bright light. For winters when darkness prevails, the use of a light box or lamp that mimics sunlight, will help fight apathy. Products are readily available for purchase online as well as from a visit to your family doctor.
You may not be feeling as hungry as usual, but it’s important to keep your body fueled, nourished and hydrated. This, in turn, will help fight off negative feelings. Stock your refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and minimally processed food. Keep caffeine at a minimum, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping, and steer away from sugary drinks and alcohol.
Try flax, hemp, and chia seeds which contain mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. In an article for Livestrong, dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of The Plant-Powered Diet says, “For anyone who enjoys an extra crunch in meals and snacks, seeds offer a way to add mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids in plant form.”
Despite feeling like you don’t want to deal with the world, much less see anyone, it’s important to let your loved ones (anyone) know what’s going on. Communicate your feelings and open up about what’s going on. It takes a lot of courage to expose yourself to others but the change this will provide will be all worth it.
You’ll be surprised how effective it is to keep a little social activity. There’s no need to force yourself out to a club or a party, just keep things simple. Invite a friend over for some hot chocolate or head out to catch a movie. If you want to keep things low-key but want some accompany, head to a cozy cafe for some tea and quiet or visit your local library. The more you engage with others, especially your loved ones, the better you’ll feel.
And, since the new year just started, there’s no better time to make these changes. Start out slow, keep at it and watch the transformation begin.