Winter is the season of hibernation, but it can also be a time of heightened anxiety. A dark and dreary day can make you feel like you need to hide away from the world and curl up with your favorite blanket–but there are plenty of ways to combat that urge and beat the winter blues.
When the days get shorter, your body naturally slows down and prepares for winter by producing more melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep) and less serotonin (the hormone associated with happiness), and that can negatively affect your mood.
But there are things you can do to keep yourself feeling healthy, both physically and mentally, during those days when even a winter coat doesn’t stop the shivers.
Get a Light Box
One way to combat the winter blues is to get a lightbox. This special type of home light therapy helps boost serotonin levels, which can improve mood and energy levels. Additionally, light boxes help regulate sleep-wake cycles by providing exposure to light at key times during the day.
You can buy lightboxes at some health food stores and online. If you go that route, follow the instructions and use the lightbox as directed to maximize the benefits. Remember to discuss any mental health concerns with a doctor before using a lightbox.
During the cold winter months, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. But did you know that dehydration can harm your mood and mental health? Staying hydrated supports healthy bodily function, including brain function, and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Even mild dehydration can trigger a low mood, fatigue, and mild headache. Drinking plenty of water also helps combat fatigue and can lead to improved concentration and motivation. Monitor your urine color as a marker of hydration. If it’s darker than light straw-colored, you need to drink more water.
Take Up a Wintertime Sport
Exercise helps fight the blues, but it’s hard to motivate yourself when it’s cold outside. One way to get through the season is to take up a cold-weather sport. Winter sports provide a fun way to exercise and keep your mind and body active during the colder months. They also provide an opportunity to connect with friends, family, or teammates.
Popular winter sports include skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hockey, and curling. Or you can bring out the sleds and go sledding with the kids when the next snow falls. No matter the activity, movement can help stave off the winter blues and give a much-needed boost of energy and endorphins. Don’t forget to dress warmly and take safety precautions to make the most of winter activities. Keep up your regular workouts though!
Volunteering is a rewarding way to stay mentally healthy during the winter months. It offers the opportunity to engage with the community and come together to help those in need. Giving back can boost self-esteem, reduce stress and depression, and provide a sense of purpose–and you’ll make new friends.
There are many ways to find volunteer opportunities. Start by researching online, and check with local organizations, such as your city hall, churches, or nonprofit organizations. You can also search for listings in your local newspapers or contact your local United Way office. Additionally, many large corporations and organizations have volunteering programs or resources available.
Ask your family and friends if they know of any volunteer opportunities or organizations that need help. Finally, consider volunteering your time and skills to a cause you’re passionate about. Once you’ve identified a few volunteer opportunities, contact the organization and inquire about volunteer requirements and expectations.
Change Your Diet
Cut back on ultra-processed and sugary foods that can cause mood swings. Incorporating nutrient-dense, mood-boosting foods, such as fruits and vegetables, into your diet can help naturally lift your spirits. Eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, may help reduce feelings of sadness and depression. But the most important step is to ensure you’re eating nutrient-dense foods rather than junk.
Also, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. It can be difficult to do that when the sun is so weak in the winter. Plus, food is not a substantial source of vitamin D, except for eggs, fatty fish, mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, and packaged foods with added vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about whether to take a vitamin D supplement.
Open the Curtains and Blinds
Open the curtains and blinds in a room. Allowing natural light into your home helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which in turn can help improve your mood and energy levels. Additionally, sunlight can reduce fatigue and even improve your concentration.
Opening your curtains during the day will help reset your internal clock for improvements in mood and better sleep at night. If you can’t get outside to enjoy the sunshine, bringing some sunshine into your home is the next best thing. Take advantage of this natural remedy to combat the winter blues and keep your spirits up!
Watch a Sunrise
Starting the day with a peaceful sunrise is an excellent way to fight off winter blues. The calming sight of the sun rising on the horizon can provide a moment of peace and gratitude for the day ahead. A sunrise can also provide a positive source of energy to give you motivation and brighten your mood.
Taking a few moments out of each day to watch the sunrise can make a world of difference when it comes to finding joy in the winter months. There are few things as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the sun at dawn, and it is an activity you can participate in no matter where you live.
With these seven tips, you can stay mentally healthy and find comfort and joy during the winter. From spending time outdoors to engaging in self-care practices, you can create a balanced and sustainable routine to help you stay motivated and content during the colder months. Remember, the winter is an opportunity to slow down and practice self-care and self-love, so make the most of it.
- Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, Lee EC, McDermott BP, Klau JF, Jimenez L, Le Bellego L, Chevillotte E, Lieberman HR. Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142000. Epub 2011 Dec 21. PMID: 22190027.
- “Shining a light on winter depression – Harvard Health.” 01 Nov. 2019, .health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/shining-a-light-on-winter-depression.
- “Natural Light and Mental Health – Resources To Recover.” 26 Jul. 2018, .rtor.org/2018/07/26/how-light-improves-mental-health/.
- “Being in natural light improves mood, increases happiness.” 25 Mar. 2022, connect.uclahealth.org/2022/03/25/being-in-natural-light-improves-mood-increases-happiness/.