sad man

Avoiding the Winter Blues

Ila Gartin

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are over. It’s cold. We all want to stay bundled up with some really fattening comfort food planned for our next meal. And it’s dark. The days are so short. If you live in the same area I do, it feels like it’s cloudy every. damn. day. of your life. So you feel like you never get any brightness or even have the chance to make some all-natural Vitamin D. 

The winter blues is a real thing, folks. We get cabin fever and we start feeling gloomy. Sometimes it’s hard to notice because it happens so gradually, but many people just don’t feel as happy, joyous, interested, or motivated this time of year. Now, I am NOT qualified to talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a diagnosable type of depression. As someone who has experienced feeling melancholy associated with this time of year, I’m just here to give some tips on how to avoid it. 

The first one may be obvious, but feel difficult. Get outside! I know, it’s cold. That’s what coats are for. And hats. And scarves and gloves and boots. Go outside when you get the opportunity while the sun is out. If it’s cloudy, you’re in the shade, or you have a darker skin tone, this will impede the amount of Vitamin D your body will make due to sun exposure. As little as 10 minutes in the sun can help improve your mood and energy level. As always, don’t forget your SPF when you’re in the sun. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you’re not getting ALL the sun’s rays. 

Speaking of Vitamin D, it’s often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because your body can produce it by using cholesterol and absorbing sunlight through the skin. There are many foods containing Vitamin D also, which brings me to the next suggestion: maintain a healthy diet. Some foods high in Vitamin D are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), mushrooms (which are now being boosted by being exposed to ultraviolet light to increase the Vitamin D level), and milk, including soy and almond milk. Many foods are now being fortified with Vitamin D, such as orange juice and yogurt.

Taking a Vitamin D supplement is also an option, but be sure to talk with your doctor first. This little blog here is NOT to replace the advice of a trained doctor.

On to more natural options for avoiding those winter blues: keeping a sleep schedule. I know, everybody wants to sleep in on the weekend. But honestly, if you wake up around the same time every morning AND go to sleep around the same time every night, your body AND YOUR BRAIN will thank you. I found that I had more overall energy, no matter what time of year it was when I started doing this. Each person requires a different amount of sleep, so find out what works for you. For most of us, it’ll be 7-8 continuous hours each night. 

Hydrate! Getting tired of hearing the same advice for so many different issues? Hmmmm…maybe there’s something to that. Drinking enough water each day is essential for all bodily functions. Sorry, not sorry for the TMI, but you’ll know you’re drinking enough water when your pee is clear or almost clear (pale yellow). 

When you’re hydrated, not only will you see a difference in your energy, but also your skin and hair. So many people don’t want to drink as much water as they should because they don’t want to run to the bathroom all the time. What. tf. is wrong with that??? Who cares? You’re aiming to be healthier and cut out that despondent feeling. Drink the dang water. 

Finally, we’re at the suggestion that people hate even more than drinking the water. Exercise. Getting regular exercise promotes the release of endorphins in the brain, bringing about improved disposition as well as reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Notice this says REGULAR exercise. Going for a 10 minute walk once a week isn’t going to cut it. If you need to start there, go for it! Start where you are. But if you can up your exercise to at least 30 minutes daily, you should be getting some brain and mood-boosting benefits for sure!

What if you honestly can’t get outside because you live in negative temperatures all winter or the sky is literally clouded over all the time (like where I live)? The next best thing, I’ve found, is buying a light therapy lamp. There are many available in stores and online at many different price ranges. Mine is a 10,000-lux light and I use it 20-30 minutes daily this time of year. During the summer months, when it isn’t dark when I leave work, I try to make sure I get outside for more natural light.

Now, for the BEST medicine, laughter! Got a funny friend? You should hang out more. Like a blog that makes you chuckle once in a while? Read it daily! Love to make others laugh? Try doing it more often because laughter can be contagious. Laughter really IS the best, right? Laughing several times daily, as you can imagine, will have a positive impact on your spirit, chasing those blues away.

So many options for avoiding the winter blues, most of them free! While this may take a change in your habits and routine, these are easy suggestions to implement. A combination of these to combat the blues from every angle may be most effective, or you can start with one small change and work from there. 

  • What will you start implementing in your routine?
  • What seems to be the easiest for you?
  • What would you love to start doing but are having difficulty implementing?

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2 thoughts on “Avoiding the Winter Blues”

  1. Looks like some good advice. I know I need to stay on top of getting some exercise this time of year to help keep the blues away. Thanks for the reminders.

    1. No problem. 🙂 Glad you were able to find something to add more of to your routine so you can increase endorphins and chase away the blues. I really believe coming at it from all angles is the best strategy.

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