For all its holiday magic and picturesque blankets of snow, winter can be brutal on our psyche. Bone-chilling temperatures, increased isolation and darker days can leave us feeling down in the dumps and make even the staunchest winter-lover long for sunny skies and pleasant summer nights.
According to experts, it's not uncommon for people to find themselves suffering from the so-called “winter blues” this time of year. Along with increased feelings of sadness and irritability, you may experience symptoms such as apathy, loss of energy, insomnia, lack of concentration and mood swings.
The good news is that there are many easy things you can do to keep the winter blues at bay (or at least lessen the effects). The next time you find your mood slipping, try one of these simple activities to help boost your spirits.
1. Practice healthy sleep
Winter weather is known to negatively affect mood and sleep. Longer nights and lack of sunlight can throw off our circadian rhythms, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep (and thus, harder for us to stay positive). For this reason, many experts believe that getting sufficient sleep is key to chasing away the doldrums of winter.
Here are a few tips to reset your sleep schedule and get back on track:
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
- Try a natural sleep aid, such as a weighted eye mask or a white noise machine.
- Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning
- Eat light meals at dinnertime to avoid prolonged digestion
- Gradually adjust your sleep schedule in 15-minute increments
2. Cook or bake something
The connection between healthy eating and a better mood is obvious — but did you know that the physical act of cooking can also be profoundly therapeutic? Much like art therapy and dance therapy, culinary therapy (aka, cooking therapy) increases our confidence and provides an outlet for self-expression.
Cooking often requires your complete and undivided attention. This is beneficial because it distracts us from negative thought patterns that make it harder to fight off our winter blues.
And, of course, there are the fruits of our labor. There’s something undeniably satisfying about taking a bunch of ingredients and turning them into a delicious, home-cooked meal!
Source: Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com
3. Move your body
Exercise is a powerful mood booster and stress reliever. According to a 2017 study, just one hour of exercise of any intensity can deliver significant protection against depression.
When you’re feeling down in the dumps, the last thing you probably want to do is exercise. But you don’t have to put yourself through a grueling workout to lift your spirits. According to a 2017 study, just one hour of exercise of any intensity can deliver significant protection against depression.
So, why not look for some easy ways to move your body? This could be anything from going for a walk in the morning to playing with your dog on the floor.
4. Snuggle up to a weighted blanket
Looking for a cozy way to tackle the winter blues? Try snuggling up to a weighted throw blanket while watching television or reading a book. Known for their ability to promote sleep and relaxation, these trendy yet therapeutic blankets can be a much-needed source of comfort during the cold, blustery months.
Weighted blankets use firm, controlled pressure to promote the production of feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin and oxytocin. Not only do these mood-boosting hormones make you feel calm and content, but they also help you achieve a better night’s sleep. And as we mentioned above, getting good sleep is key to fending off the winter blues.
5. Do something nice for someone else
The giving season is still in full swing, so why not find ways to give back to your community? It has long been known that performing acts of kindness and generosity can significantly increase levels of happiness and emotional well-being. In fact, research shows that giving to others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves.
Of course, you don’t need to spend money to give back to your community. You can donate your time by volunteering at your local food pantry or donating your blood to the Red Cross (they always need blood — not just in times of crisis!). No matter what generous act you perform, chances are, you’ll be happier for it.
6. Hang out with a furry friend
If you have ever had the privilege of owning a pet, then you already know how much comfort our furry friends can bring us when we're feeling sad or anxious. Their soft fur and happy greetings at the door can make even the worst of days feel a little bit better. The next time you’re feeling down, play some fetch with your four-legged companion or just cuddle on the couch together. Don’t have the time or the space for a pet? Volunteer at your local humane society and dole out the belly rubs to a pet in need.
Source: Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock.com
7. Get outside
Take a tip from the Scandinavians and start embracing winter in all its cold, blustery glory. We know — easier said than done, right? But the fact remains that Scandinavians are some of the happiest people on the planet, and their positive winter mindset plays a big part in that. Rather than holing themselves up inside for months on end, the Scandi people choose to bundle up in their winter gear and reflective vests and play outside with their children — even in the dark, according to one article. So, embrace the Scandinavian concept of friluftsliv — which roughly translates to “open air life” — and start braving the elements!
Dealing with the winter blues can be challenging, we know. But with these tips, you can be proactive and get ahead of the moodiness that winter weather often brings. Don’t forget to bundle up!