How to Overcome the Winter Blues

snowy forest winter blues
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Are the winter blues getting to you? It is definitely getting to me. Day after day, dark skies, frigid temperatures, piles of snow and on top of it all, no where to go!

After days of grey skies, a sunny day means sitting near the window for as long as I possibly can. Trying to soak up as much of the sun as possible is necessary, because the next few days or weeks could be filled with grey skies.

The winter months in Canada are already difficult enough, but with the added COVID mandates and lockdown measures, I’m sure many are feeling the winter blues a little bit more this year. Although lockdown measures are slowly lifting and things are opening up, a lot of recreational activities are still limited to a certain capacity or completely closed. So if you don’t have a reservation/appointment, you are bound to be left out especially on a Friday and Saturday night.

The winter months are so dreary that people living in Northern cold countries with harsh winters very often struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that impacts people primarily during the winter months. Although less likely, symptoms can sometimes occur in the spring and summer months as well.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include feeling sad and down for most days during this period. Additionally, losing interest in the things that once brought joy and happiness. Having low energy and gaining weight can also contribute to the list of symptoms.

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree winter blues
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Overcoming the Winter Blues:

Now I don’t have a perfect formula for overcoming the winter blues all together. However, I have a few ideas to suggest that seem to help me during the winter season.

1. Exercise

I feel like you saw this one coming. Exercise is important all year round. However, it is easy to become lazier and more disinterested in exercise during the winter months. When we exercise, our brain releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger positive feelings that create a euphoric experience. That is why we very often hear about the “runners high”.

Exercising can bring about positivity to help push you through the winter blues. Additionally, exercising for 30 minutes daily is highly recommended for adults. This could look like a multitude of things and you don’t necessarily need to go to a gym at all. Exercise can be doing yoga, walking, dancing, jogging, stretching, etc.! Any movement of moderate physical activity counts. Sitting for long periods can negatively impact our health and longevity so be sure to get in some daily movement especially during the winter months when it can tend to be difficult!

2. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is always key, but especially key during the winter when we are exposed to very low levels of sunlight. Ensuring that we eat foods enriched with the right nutrients, especially vitamin D can be crucial to maintaining good physical and mental health.

Additionally, I urge you to look for foods that are high in the amino acid: tryptophan. Tryptophan helps with the production of serotonin, melatonin and studies have shown that it has a beneficial impact on moods, depression, cognition, and much more!

It can be found in a variety of specific foods, such as: fish, cheese, chicken, peanuts, eggs, milk, tofu and much more! Check out the book Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi PhD, if you are interested in learning more about this.

3. Sleep

Getting enough hours of undisturbed sleep is probably the best thing you can do for yourself at any time of the year; not only during the winter rut. Adults should be sleeping for 7-8 hours per night and children for 9-10 hours (although this varies for specific age groups).

Waking up after a well-rested sleep is truly one of the best feelings in my opinion. I find that when my sleep is interrupted, I wake up much more tired and groggy in the morning. I also feel that same way if I oversleep, which I try not to allow myself to do.

I do my best to follow a routine of winding down and sleeping at the same time every day, even if it’s the weekend. Unless obviously I have weekend plans that require me to stay up later. In those cases, I still try to wake up at a reasonable time in the morning. Using the sleep focus on my iPhone has been really helpful, as it allows me to track exactly how many hours of sleep I get each night.

When we chronically don’t get enough sleep, our mental and physical health can be greatly impacted. Additionally, it can reduce our immunity, create hormone imbalances, as well as a multitude of other complications!

Please reach out to the resources around you if you feel like you need help or guidance this winter season! Attached below is a link to the provincial mental health resources where I live in Ontario, Canada. Thank you for reading this post and stay safe!

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