Winter is hard.
For months, flowers lie in a heap of decay under heavy coats of snow and slush. The air blows unbearably cold, biting the skin and cutting into the lungs. And the sun all but disappears. Clouds of grey and white stain the sky and dye the city in monochrome array. White and grey, grey and white. The winter is void of colour, warmth and life.
With this dismal landscape, it’s easy to see why roughly 35% of Canadians suffer from the Winter Blues. In these dark days, our spirits tend to drop, we grow more lethargic and less motivated and overall we feel, blue.
But this gloomy mood can sink even deeper, and become what is known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) S.A.D. is a seasonally recurring depression that pops up in the fall and winter.
Symptoms of Winter Blues
Lack of energy
Lack of motivation
Loss of desire to socialize / less active
Symptoms of S.A.D.
Binge eating / overeating
Perpetual feeling of fatigue
Isolation from family and friends
Loss in interest of hobbies / activities
Struggle focusing on tasks
Feeling of depression / hopelessness
If you are suffering from the severe signs of S.A.D. (or even the Winter Blues), do not ignore the symptoms. Consult a family doctor and take action.
We may not be able to avoid winter entirely, but there are ways we can combat the cold, and bring a little light and life into this quiet season.
How to Fight the Winter Blues
Mood Boosting Foods
Eating wholesome, nutritious food is always a good start to great health (physical and mental). The vitamins and minerals your gut absorbs play a big role in affecting your daily moods.
Foods high in carbs tend to leave us feeling lethargic and sleepy. High sugar snacks send our emotions on a wild ride; up and down and all around. Spikes in blood sugar levels give us bursts of energy, but once that spark is gone we are a cranky tired mess.
For this reason, processed foods with high levels of sugar, salt and fat should be avoided like the plague – or at the very least consumed in moderation.
Instead, you should divert your attention to a rainbow of fruits and veggies, clean lean proteins and healthy fats.
So while the snow continues to fall, try some of these mood boosting foods:
- Coconut (milk or shredded pieces)
- Citrus fruits
- Green Tea
- Chocolate (low/no sugar)
Far from a myth your gym teacher once told you; exercise does in fact make you happy.
Benefits of Exercise
- Increases your energy levels
- Helps you sleep well
- Boosts self-esteem and motivation
- Decreases anxiety and depression
Not to mention, the physical condition of your body (strength, speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility and mobility).
The best part is there are countless ways to get up and get active. If you love to walk, great, go for a walk. Or maybe you prefer cycling, or swimming, or dancing. Whether it’s lifting weights or stretching in downward dog, a good workout will have a positive impact.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
Sunlight is not a common sight in the winter. But on the odd day that yellow star shows its face, you would be wise to head outside and soak up the sun. When our human bodies are exposed to sunlight, we can produce the sunshine vitamin – Vitamin D. This vitamin helps with bone health and may help decrease the risk of heart disease, depression, various types of cancer and weight gain. Exposure to sunlight may even help your body produce more Serotonin, the brain’s happiness chemical.
Light it Up
Of course, as we know, the sun won’t shine every day. But there are still a few clever ways you can bask in “daylight” and reap the benefits of the sun. Studies have shown lights that mimic the flow and glow of the sun can act as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed and go about performing daily business. These lights help keep you on track with the rhythm of natural light and may just help brighten your day.
Start a New Hobby or Project
It may not be warm enough to venture outside, but why let that stop you from having fun inside! Winter can be dull and dreary, but sometimes grey days are the perfect time to de-clutter the house, get organized and start tackling projects you’ve been putting off. The sense of accomplishment will boost your motivation and lead to another project, and another. Soon your checklist will be clear and your worries can disappear. After that, if you find there is nothing to do, open a good book or learning a new skill. It will keep your mind busy and your thoughts active.
Spend Time with Family and Friends
You’ll never waste a moment when you are with the ones you love. Break out the board games or grab a cup of coffee; the smiles and laughter of your closest friends and family will warm your heart on even the darkest winter day.
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