Season Affective Disorder (more commonly known as the winter blues) affects more than 3 million people every single year. The winter blues usually hit people the hardest in mid-January and into February when all the excitement of the holidays have worn off, but the days are still short and the weather is still frigid.
Those living in a milder winter climate might not be as familiar with the winter blues, but in the mid-west and northern US states the wrath of the the winter blues is very real. Here are my top 10 ways to beat the winter blues.
brighten things up
Open your curtains first thing in the morning. Even letting the littlest amount of sunlight into a room can help it seem brighter and bigger. It’s easy to want to reach for browns and blacks in our wardrobe in the wintertime, but mix it up and wear a bright pink shirt, or bright red shoes to work or to the store. Buy some fresh flowers at the market and put them somewhere you’ll see them often. Do everything you can to make your environment warm and bright.
commit to exercise
When you exercise your body releases chemicals called Endorphins. Endorphins are a key component in what helps us diminish our perception of pain and helps us feel good about ourselves. It has been proven by science 283948334 times over that exercise is good for us and in turn makes us feel good about ourselves. If running on a treadmill day after day isn’t something you can stand (definitly not something I can stand), look into trying something new at your gym. I started with Hot Yoga in the dead of winter for no reason other than I couldn’t stand another day being bored at the gym.
find a new winter hobby
Find a hobby you can only do in the winter and commit to learning it and practicing it. Have you every tried ice skating? what about skiing? or snowboarding? Trying to take up winter time hobbies and finding contentment, challenge, or joy in them will help you appreciate this time of the year so much more.
make an effort to be social
It’s so easy to want to spend the entire winter holed up in your home watching Netflix and drinking wine. This can be relaxing at times, but getting in a habit of backing out of things can have a negative effect on our mental health. Instead, make an extra effort to get together with fiends and be social. Organize a time to meet some friends after work for drinks, or get together for a movie at the theatre.
If you know winter is a particularly tough time for you mentally, take the extra time to be kind to yourself. There is nothing wrong with admitting you’re more fragile during certain times of the year. Schedule a massage, take an afternoon to curl up with good book, eat dessert first. Find little ways to make yourself smile or feel joy during the day.
turn up the tunes
Everyone has that one playlist packed full of songs that gets them feeling good! Keep this playlist handy and play it often in the wintertime. For me this means songs with upbeat rhythm, catchy lyrics, and something I can’t help but sing along too. Even during some of my worst winter days, I can’t resist humming along and toe tapping to Miley Cyrus and Party in the USA.
pop some vitamin D
The most natural way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to the sunlight. In the summer time we tend to get enough Vitamin D pretty easily, but in the winter time, it can be extremely hard to get the recommended amount. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient your body needs in order to absorb calcium and to promote strong bones. To make up for the lack of bare skin sun exposure in the winter time, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement during the winter months.
Clean out your closet and donate old clothes to your local homeless shelter. Plan to become a volunteer at one of your favorite causes like your local Humane Society or animal shelter. Pay for a strangers coffee, or leave your server a generous tip. Even the smallest acts of giving back can propel you forward in a huge way.
plan a getaway
Last but not least, the one thing that always gets me out of my winter blues is taking a break from the cold and the short, dark days and planning a trip somewhere warm. For me being able to break up winter into two parts is extremely helpful. I try to plan some sort of vacation every year, even if it has to be short, in the middle of winter. I always come back rejuvenated ready to kick the rest of winter’s butt.
What do you do to beat the winter blues?
Note: I am not a licensed psychiatrist or physician. These are simply my personal recommendations as to what helps me during the winter months. If you or someone you know is in need of serious psychiatric help please contact your doctor immediately.