The winter blues can be characterized by feelings of tiredness, anxiety, melancholy and moodiness. We tend to crave more carbs in the wintertime, which tied in with less physical movement at this time of year, can lead to weight gain.
The winter blues affect around one in four of us, to varying degrees. A more intense version of this is Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), which affects 2-3 % of all Canadians. How we feel in the wintertime is influenced by our geography, genetics, hormones, and internal brain chemistry.
Living as we do in British Columbia, we have many hours less of sunlight in the wintertime. We can’t change that, but there are other ways in which we can elevate our mood to combat the effects.
- Get a light box. A light box differs from regular electric light in that it mimics the UV of sunlight. It’s best to use a light box first thing upon awakening for about a half hour daily. This stimulates the body’s own circadian rhythm.
- Exercise-preferably outside. It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you feel tired, but in fact, mild and moderate exercise will help with building energy. It also causes your body to release endorphins, your feel-good hormones. It will counteract the weight gain that often feels inevitable at this time of year.
- Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Sunlight is usually the best source for our bodies to receive vitamin D. You can talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels. Many people who live further north have shown to be deficient. It is usually safe to supplement your diet with 1000-4000 IU of vitamin D daily in the wintertime. This can help with your mood, energy, bone density, immunity, and other things.
- Leave your curtains open in the daytime. Try and sit by a window and get as much natural light as you can. Attempt to take a walk at around noon everyday, weather-permitting. Soak up as much sun as you can.
- Aromatherapy has been proven to uplift the mood. Many essential oils are helpful for calming or energizing. You can use a diffuser in your room and also use some oils, mixed with a carrier oil, directly on your skin.
- Try and keep routines. Sleeping and waking at a regular time can be helpful with maintaining steady energy through the day. Try and eat meals at regular times. This helps with stabilizing blood sugar to keep your mood steady and also to avoid snacking.
- Meditation and Yoga are very helpful with mood and sleep issues. These practices help to keep us grounded and are also great as indoor activities for self care. Mindfulness-based practices help to cultivate self-awareness which allows us to see our triggers and not react to them as intensely or frequently.
- Keep a gratitude journal. When we’re not feeling great, we can forget all the good things that we actually do have in our lives. A gratitude journal is a good way to remind ourselves.
- Consult your healthcare practitioner. Sometimes the symptoms are too severe and life can become overwhelming. It’s good to have a discussion with your healthcare practitioner to see if there are options to support you.
- Take a vacation. If finances, and work allow, it’s a great time to take a little break to sunny climes. Even a few days can make a big difference and help you hold out until the spring.
- Reach out to your community. Family and friends can be a great support when we are feeling down. Make plans to meet for a meal, a walk, a movie. Connection is so important to our well-being.
- Talk to someone. Entrusting your issues to a counsellor can make a world of difference.
- Get some acupuncture. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine have been studied and proven to be of help with the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder.