Yaaaaawwwnn. The cold temperatures and lack of sunshine that occur during winter have a considerable impact on our well-being, particularly since Jack Frost can bring an unwanted present with him: a dampened mood.
With 15 millions people (75% of them women) suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s not uncommon to feel less-than-stellar during dreary days with scant light.
SAD symptoms include low energy, carb cravings, and weight gain. And it’s a potentially threatening condition not many people feel comfortable talking about, because first you have to admit you feel “down in the dumps” for what appears to be no reason at all. Well, think again; the weather plays a huge role in our health and happiness.
According to MSN Health, researchers have, since the early 1970’s, sought to to confirm a relationship between weather and temperament. Yet just how much weather affects our mood remains to be determined. With that said, researches do agree that some people are more sensitive to dark, cold days. What’s more, there is research on Seasonal Affective Disorder that confirms that our brains respond to darkness and light, as SAD has been linked to the shortened daylight hours of winter -- and your body’s natural production of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone).
No wonder some of us feel like snoozing at our desk when the sun sets at 4 p.m. With the early arrival of nightfall, our bodies switch into get-ready-for-sleep mode. Yet, all is not lost. Professor of psychology at Fordham University in New York, Ani Kalayjian, Ed.D., R.N., advises us to be proactive when strengthening the brain’s system against weather-driven mood changes. We agree.
Here are 10 simple ways to take care of your well-being during the winter months:
- Listen to upbeat music. Whether it’s Mozart or Maroon 5, you can boost your mood and energy level by plugging into your favorite tunes.
- Look at past photos from a fun event. Reliving moments from a past vacation or family gathering can make you feel happy and put a smile on your face.
- Do a mini-meditation. Not only is is good for stress relief, closing your eyes for a few minutes will put you in a more relaxed and restorative state of mind. Closing your eyes for just two minutes could give you a mid-afternoon boost and allow you to push through the rest of the day.
- Limit alcohol intake and refined sugar. The feel-good effects are temporary. Both alcohol and refined sugar can have you feeling even more tired. So limit them. Instead, reach for seltzer water or peppermint tea, and swap sugary treats for fresh fruit.
- Move more. Easier said than done when bundled under the blankets, but incorporating more movement into your day -- like a 10-minute yoga session or jog -- can work wonders on keeping your energy levels balanced. Bonus tip: always take the stairs!
- Get more Vitamin D. Getting more of the “sunshine vitamin” can help bolster mood. During the winter months, eat seafood like salmon, shrimp, and sardines, and add more eggs and Vitamin D fortified cereals and milk to your daily menu. You can also take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Call a friend. Hearing a friend’s voice can boost your mood and socializing helps you feel connected to the people who matter most to you.
- Get outside. Bundle up and step outside, for nothing replaces the benefits of sunlight. Go for a brisk walk in the afternoon or try something new like snow shoeing!
- Change your perspective. Help relieve the dreary feelings winter brings by talking or writing your way to a happier place. Start a daily gratitude journal, or schedule weekly pick-me-ups (like me-time pampering or coffee with a friend).
- Invest in a light box. When the above tips fail to lighten your mood, try turning (literally) to a light box that can elevate serotonin levels in 30 minutes day. (Consult your physician for a light box recommendation.)