It’s been a very mild winter here in New England. Yet, we still get our share of those grey and gloomy days (like today, for example!). I’ve dug into some research to put together a shortlist of things you can do to lift your spirit from those dull, lethargic winter blues.
From mindfully choosing to get outside when the sun is shining to revamping an energizing winter playlist, there’s so much you can do! Check out these ideas here:
1. Get Moving to Beat Those Winter Blues
“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”
– John Burroughs
Studies show that exercise is consistently a great way to lift your spirits and even prevent depression. Just walking for 30 minutes a day five times a week can significantly impact your mood.
Spin, barre, yoga, trampoline – you name it! Check out this fantastic article that suggests 20 indoor exercises to try this winter. Consider getting bundled up to go for a walk, jumping on a stationary bike, downloading a virtual kickboxing class, or dancing around your living room to get your body moving this winter. If you can exercise outside, absorbing natural daylight before 10 am even better.
2. Lighten Up During the Darker Winter Months
“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”
– Paul Theroux
During these dark months, your body and brain crave more sunlight, responsible for making the feel-good hormone serotonin. Experts say that between 50% and 80% of people who get winter blues can get some relief from bright light therapy. This may consist of sitting next to artificial light, also called a lightbox, for half an hour a day.
You can place the lamp on a desk or table while eating breakfast or working and reap the benefits. Or, take breaks and head outside during the day, even when it’s cold, to get some natural sunshine.
3. Stick to a Regular Sleep Routine
Another tip for beating the winter blues is getting a good enough amount of sleep every day. According to the National Sleep Foundation guidelines, it’s important to try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night for optimal health. Although it’s tempting to want to stay buried under your bed covers on dark, cold mornings, studies show it’s best to stick with a regular sleep schedule — which includes waking up at the same time on weekdays and weekends. Consider investing in an Oura ring to track your sleep patterns every night so that you can maximize your chances for rest.
If you find you can’t wake up, try using a dawn simulator, a device that gradually causes the lights in your bedroom to brighten over a set period. The simulator can serve as an antidepressant, making it easier to get out of bed and start your day.
4. Eat Certain Foods to Improve Your Mood
“I got all my boyhood in vanilla winter waves around the kitchen stove.”
– Jack Kerouac
Certain foods, such as dark chocolate, can enhance your mood and even relieve anxiety. On the other hand, candy and carbohydrates can lead to a rise and fall in blood sugar levels, ultimately increasing feelings of anxiety and depression.
Try being extra mindful with your diet by limiting sugar, alcohol, and fast foods during the winter. Try adding dark leafy greens, walnuts, seeds, turkey, avocados, berries, and oranges to help naturally fight off those winter blues.
5. Listen to an Upbeat Playlist and Dance the Winter Blues Away
Take the time to create an upbeat playlist! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find the whole playlist idea overwhelming. I see my daughter’s multiple lists mixed in with shared lists and feel like I’m way out of my league. Recently, I tried making my winter playlist with Spotify, and it took me only 10 minutes to create a list of over 50 songs.
Have fun creating your playlists! My winter playlist has artists like Stevie Nicks, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Pat Benatar. My friend Michael is completely hooked on Dionne Warwick right now! For more on how to do this, look here.
6. Give Yourself Manageable Tasks to Accomplish
“Winter forms our character and brings out our best.”
– Tom Allen
There is something so satisfying about the feeling of accomplishment. Consider making easy, manageable to-do lists to keep you on track and feeling happy that you achieved your goals at the end of the day.
Winter could also be an ideal time to take a closer look at your habits. Have you read Atomic Habits? It was my favorite book from last year. It’s full of tips on building routines in your life quickly and easily. Using a habit tracker can also be helpful.
7. Beat the Winter Blues by Staying Connected
“There is no winter without snow, no spring without sunshine, and no happiness without companions.”
– Korean Proverb
The quiet, inward energy of winter can lead to a lot of time at home alone. No matter what’s happening, try to take the time to stay connected. I don’t know about you, but little can lift my spirits more quickly than gathering with friends or family.
Just being together can shift my energy right away. Things I was thinking about, or maybe even ruminating about, suddenly seem silly. I’m able to laugh, let go, and enjoy time together.
As this pandemic (ugh!) continues to disrupt best-laid plans, consider these creative ideas for connecting while apart.
8. Lastly: Be Kind to Yourself
“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”
– Gary Zukhav
Although we’ve had some reprieve here and there this year, overall it’s still been very challenging to navigate this crazy time. Feeling stuck at home with the weather changing and with restrictions from Covid can bring up complicated feelings of loss, loneliness, and even PTSD from all of the unexpected events of the past (almost) two years.
Incredibly, you’ve been able to do all the things you’ve done! Take a moment to remember how much you’ve endured. Prioritize your wellness in whatever form you need, including counseling, meditation, or even writing a letter to yourself.
Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and spring is right around the corner.
Quotes for this story were sourced from Town and Country Magazine.
Originally published on January 21, 2020, this article has been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.
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