In winter, the nights become colder and the days get quite a bit shorter.  This can leave a lot of people feeling down and out. Mild depression during the wintertime is often referred to as the “winter blues.”  People with the winter blues experience low energy and decreased motivation and some people are not able to concentrate on their work.

Though it is common for people to feel sad and depressed during the colder months, there are a number of ways to keep yourself and people around you happy and in an upbeat mood as the temperature dips.

Focus on Healthy Eating
What you eat during winter significantly impacts your energy level and mood.  Here’s how to make sure you’re eating the right foods to combat the winter blues:

  • Steer clear of processed and refined foods (sugar and bread, for example). These foods not only lack certain important nutrients, but they also lower your energy levels, worsen your depression, wreak havoc on your concentration and even cause major mood swings.
  • Add complex carbs to your diet, like brown rice, fruit, whole wheat bread and veggies. These types of foods will keep your blood sugar stable, boost your energy and give your brain extra fuel.
  • Make sure drink at least eight glasses of water every day.
  • You should avoid alcohol if you are feeling sad and depressed, especially binge-drinking. Some people turn to alcohol when they’re feeling low, but this will only worsen your symptoms, since alcohol itself is considered as a depressant.

Engage in Some Kind of Physical Activity/Exercise
It can be hard to get yourself to hit the gym or go for a walk in the frigid air. Exercise is important not just to stay healthy and maintain your weight, it is especially helpful when dealing with depression and the feelings of sadness.

  • Exercise helps to relieve stress and it releases “feel-good” hormones in the brain, like serotonin. The effect of even a moderate bout of exercise can have a positive effect on your mind and body.
  • Many people experience an increased energy level and improved mood throughout the day. If you cannot go to the gym for a nice workout or for a long walk, consider at-home exercises like running on the treadmill or climbing stairs from 30 to 45 minutes every day.
  • Consider getting into a winter sport, like snowboarding or ice skating as it is not just a great way to exercise but it will help you actually enjoy the cold weather.

Get Out and Soak In Some Sun
Most likely, the last thing you want to do during winter is head outside and even though most people prefer to remain inside their cozy rooms, it has been found that natural sunshine can do wonders for people suffering from mild winter depression.

  • Sunlight provides Vitamin D, which improves mood and eases the winter blues.
  • Since winter days are considerably shorter than the rest of the year, people tend to get much lesser sunlight than normal.
  • Make it a point to get a bit of healthy sun exposure on a regular basis.
  • If you can’t always get outside, sit near windows when you’re indoors and swap out your home’s regular light bulbs for full spectrum bulbs, which replicate natural light.

Be Positive and Make the Most of the Season
Looking forward to something will keep your spirits up even when it is snowing outside. It can be as small as reading a new book, or as big as an upcoming vacation to a warmer place.

Change your daily routine to include the activities discussed above and make a point to stick to the changes. Studies have shown that there’s a link between mild depression and healthy behaviors. The more you stick to your goals and continue exhibiting happy and healthy behaviors, the less depressed you’ll feel.

The best way to enjoy – not fear – the winter is to truly embrace the season. If you’re constantly trying to avoid the cold weather and the snow, you’re bound to run out of things to do. Staying active will keep you in high spirits and away from feeling sad and depressed.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author: Michele Holincheck, FNP

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