5 Ways to Stay Active and Beat the Winter Blues
Nov 10, 2017
If you're dreading the chilly temperatures and darker days of winter, you're not alone.
Around 6% of people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year, while another 10-20% experience at least mild symptoms of SAD.
Symptoms of SAD can include depression, anxiety, sleepiness or sleep problems, changes in diet, and more.
The winter blues can make it hard to stay connected with friends, family, or your passion projects. But planning ahead can help you find ways to cope during the darker days of the season.
And one of the best remedies for helping you boost your mood? Exercise.
In addition to helping you feel better, regular exercise can help relieve some of the anxiety and depression that can come along with the season.
Here’s how you can stay active and boost your mood when the winter blues have you feeling down.
Getting moving is one of the most powerful ways to keep the winter blues away. Prioritizing exercise can help get you out of the house when you just want to crawl under the covers.
If you don’t already have a gym membership, consider getting one near your house so icy roads will be less of an obstacle to getting there this winter.
If a buddy already has a gym membership, join their gym so you can carpool together. A workout buddy is also a great way to stay social and a mutual support system for getting out of the house and staying active.
If you find yourself feeling unmotivated by your typical workout routine, try a new fitness class like yoga, Pilates, Zumba, or a strengthening class to change things up and keep you engaged.
One last way to stay motivated with your fitness routine is to set achievable fitness goals for the winter.
Decide to exercise for at least 15 minutes a day. You might find the first 5 or 10 minutes is all it takes to want to keep going.
If not, you still got up and moved for 15 minutes, which can break the spell of the winter blues.
Be a Sun Worshipper
It's tough to beat the blues when you’re facing a long stretch of dark and dreary days.
But one of the best ways to lift your mood is to get out in the daylight whenever you can.
Try taking a brisk walk on your lunch break, especially if it's dark when you arrive and leave from work every day.
The exposure to natural sunlight (even if it’s mostly hidden behind the clouds) can help boost your mood.
If you can't get outside, try to sit near a window when you can to get some of that much-needed vitamin D.
You can also invest in a light therapy device, which has been shown to be effective for fighting off seasonal depression.
Don’t Neglect Your Diet
Your mental health is connected to your physical health — including your diet.
That’s why it's important to make your nutrition a priority, especially during the winter months when it’s difficult to keep depression at bay.
Make sure you're eating healthy, wholesome foods. It can be tough to avoid the temptation to binge on unhealthy comfort foods when the winter blues come knocking.
But choosing fruit, lean meats and vegetables will nourish your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to feel stable, energized, and keep you moving through the darker days.
Individuals with SAD often crave carbs during the winter, but certain sweets and simple carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, doughnuts, etc.) can create a spike in insulin followed by a “sugar crash.” And with that crash you can be left feeling tired, irritable or even with a headache.
By eating healthier carbs like potatoes, brown rice, lentils, and popcorn, you can satisfy carb cravings without the negative effects on your mood.
Make Room for Space
A cluttered room and house can bring down your mood, which is the last thing you want when dealing with seasonal depression.
Set yourself up for success by creating a daily or weekly cleaning schedule for when you need a mood boost this winter.
Give attention to your bedroom on Mondays, bathroom on Wednesdays, and kitchen on Fridays. Laundry and general closet organization could be saved for Sundays.
If you're having trouble getting motivated to pick up, set a timer for just 5 minutes, and clean until the timer goes off.
Even a quick tidying-up can make a big difference in the organization of your space, which can help lift your mood when you’re feeling down.
Stay on Schedule
Another effect of the darker days of winter could be that you start feeling an itch to hibernate.
It can be tempting to crawl under the covers all weekend. And going out to meet friends for a drink after work might feel like a chore.
But an important part of battling winter blues is keeping the same schedule as you would during the rest of the year.
If you usually wake up early for morning workouts, stick to the routine even when the cold morning temperatures make you want to stay inside.
And don't give up your evening activities, whether it’s a book club, going to happy hour with co-workers, or meeting up with your friends for trivia night.
You can’t beat the winter blues every day. Sometimes all you need is a cozy night in with tea, Netflix, and a purring cat.
But sticking to these tips can help you get out of bed and stay smiling when the winter blues try to keep you down.
And with New Years just around the corner, you might already be strategizing how to make 2018 work better for you. From fitness to diet to success in your passion projects, here’s 7 resolutions to make next year healthier and happier >