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As you gaze out at the dreary, cold weather and darkened sky, it’s no wonder that you want to curl up on the sofa or crawl back under the duvet. You’re not alone in feeling the winter blues. In fact, it’s very common to feel down, lethargic, unsociable, and irritable during the cold season. You’ve lost interest in your normal activities, you’re eating everything in sight, it’s hard to concentrate on anything and you’re having trouble sleeping.
Don’t worry — there are plenty of things you can do to shift the sluggishness and boost your mood. Here, we’ve detailed 10 ways to cope with the winter blues.
1- Stay active
Whilst stepping outside into the cold and rain is possibly the last activity you have any motivation to do, keeping fit is an excellent way to help banish the winter blues. Exercise has the same effect as antidepressants so you’re not only keeping physically fit but mentally healthy too. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just wrap up warm and go for a walk. Or stay inside, either in a gym or at home. Do an indoor workout or simply run up and down the stairs.
2- Eat the right food
It’s normal to overeat during the cold season but this leads to putting on weight and, as a result, this lowers your mood even further. By eating healthily, your mood will lift and you’ll benefit from having more energy. Enjoy a bowl of warm oatmeal, some hot soup, or cook using whole grains, beans, and lentils. Balance out the carbs you eat with lots of vegetables and fruit. Bananas are a particularly good fruit for boosting your energy. Include protein in your meals to help curb cravings for sweet treats.
3- Get enough vitamin D
You naturally absorb vitamin D from the sun so it’s important to replace that source in the winter months. It’s easy to include in your mood-boosting diet when you eat fatty fish, such as salmon, as well as eggs and mushrooms. It’s also found in milk and orange juice. Consider taking vitamin D supplements. Having a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression so it’s essential to make sure you’re getting enough.
4- Keep warm
This may seem obvious in winter but being cold can seriously affect your mood. Wrap up warmly, keep your home heated, eat hot food and drink hot drinks. An excellent drink to enjoy is a mug of hot cocoa. As well as being a comforting drink, the cocoa powder contains flavonoids, which boost your mood.
5- Stick to a sleep routine
The winter blues can disrupt your sleep patterns so establish a schedule to help increase your chances of getting better sleep. Wake up and go to bed at set times each day. Create a cosy atmosphere before bedtime with lamps on instead of the main light. Don’t use devices before you go to sleep as these stimulate your mind. When you go to bed, ensure your bedroom is dark and cool for more restful sleep.
6- Be social
Whilst it’s tempting to curl up on the sofa to watch a movie or read a good book, you need to socialize. Staying isolated at home only makes your mood decline and ensures the winter blues get worse. Socialising has been proven to benefit mental health. Even if you don’t want to be out for long, just make the effort to see family and friends to help banish those winter blues.
7- Use light therapy
Try to get as much natural daylight as you can. If you work from home, for example, place your desk near a window. You can also use light bulbs that replicate natural daylight. But when you need more light to brighten up those gloomy days and lift your mood, invest in a light therapy box. These boxes emit much more intense light than household lighting and are extremely useful for combatting seasonal depression. You simply sit in front of your light therapy box for a minimum of 20 minutes each day and you’ll soon notice its effects.
8- Start a new hobby
There must be something you’ve wanted to try as an indoor hobby but have always put it off for various reasons. Now’s the time to start it. This new activity will help to stimulate your mind, improve your concentration, relieve any stress and give you something to look forward to.
9- Arouse your senses
There are lots of ways you can stimulate your senses to help lift the gloom from your day. Put on some music you love to instantly boost your mood. Use aromatherapy to help you relax and relieve issues experienced with sleep, stress, or depression. Change your surroundings slightly by adding a splash of color or rearranging an area of your home.
10- Structure your day
When you have little motivation, it’s easy to let your normal tasks slide. The problem is, the more you procrastinate, the faster your list of jobs will build up. This, in turn, will cause you to feel overwhelmed by the amount you’ve got to do, leading to anxiety and stress. A typical reaction is to feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start so end up not doing anything, making the issue even worse. To avoid this, you need to structure your day. Give yourself a routine that’s easily manageable and be sure to have a good mix of work and pleasure. The more tasks you get done, the more accomplished you’ll feel.
It’s important not to leave the winter blues unchecked. If you don’t try the tips above to banish them, your gloomy disposition can eventually lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also called winter depression, SAD is much more severe than the winter blues. As well as having the symptoms experienced with the winter blues, you’ll suffer from depression. For some people, SAD can lead to self-harm or suicide. If you think you have SAD, therefore, it’s essential to seek medical advice.