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Combine cabin fever with gray, cloudy days, and you’ve got a recipe for the winter blues. In fact, according to Mental Health America, about 5 percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, every winter. And up to 20 percent may have at least a mild form of SAD.
Light therapy can help treat SAD, but there are many other things you can do every day. Staying motivated during the cold months is difficult, but there are ways to get back in gear.
Get into a routine
Waking up early can be challenging, but during the winter months we have to work with what we’ve got. Getting up earlier means more productive hours in the day, even if it is still dark out. How you feel is greatly affected by the serotonin your brain releases and sunlight is a big contributor when it comes to producing this chemical. With less sunlight to enjoy here are a few ways to increase your serotonin; recall happy memories, exercise regularly and treat yourself to a massage!
Keeping active is important. It could mean taking the stairs, going for a walk during your lunch break, or just simply spending some time at the gym. Exercise will release endorphins in your brain, making you feel happy and adding some pep to your step.
Fortunately, you don’t have to run six miles in the cold and sleet to stay active in the winter. Just remember to move each day, even if it’s in a small way. But if running in the cold and sleet is “your thing,” then we say, go for it!
A lot of people get bogged down and become overwhelmed when they feel there is too much to be done. This can make it easier to just ignore that growing to-do list. We agree with the classic saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what can be done today.” Start by prioritizing what needs to be done and then just tackle one thing at a time. Small steps will take you where you want to be.
Embrace the season
Do something you usually don’t get to do. Even if you’re not a fan of cold weather, there are some things you simply cannot/don’t do during the summer, listen to carols, enjoy a Christmas movie with the family over a mug of hot cocoa, or go for a walk in the winter wonderland.
Get cuddly with a pet
It usually doesn’t matter how cold or gray it gets, because the mood of your pet rarely changes with the seasons. Spend some time with your furry friend(s), typically all they want is your attention, a good belly rub and a treat now and then. It’s been proven that petting a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure and lower your levels of stress hormones. So spend some quality time with your “fur-babies,” it’s good for you and good for them too!
Personal and professional development can be fulfilling any time of year, but with more time spent indoors you can really dig into that reading list you’ve been growing. Whether or not you are satisfied in your career, try checking out a book on your area of expertise or a topic you’d like to learn more about. Developing new knowledge can give you the sense of achievement and confidence you need to beat those winter blues.
All year round it is important to nourish your body with what it needs. A healthy diet supplies you with more energy, helps to boost your mood and slows the winter weight gain. In the colder months we crave warm comfort foods, so balance is key; test out healthy alternatives like a hearty lentil soup and include fresh fruits and vegetables.