8 Ways to Cope with the Winter Blues
Do the chilly, gloomy days of winter make you want to curl up under the covers and stay there until the sun shines again? You're not alone. During our dark and rainy Pacific Northwest winters, we get less of the mood-boosting benefits of sunlight and exercise, which may set the stage for the winter blues. What can you do to beat the winter blues when the short, dark days are getting you down?
Overcoming the Winter Blues
Here are eight strategies for overcoming the winter blues recommended by Group Health physician Amado Daylo, MD (Assistant Medical Director of Behavioral Health Services).
Bundle up for a walk, swim indoors, or head to the gym. Exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in combating mild-to-moderate depression.
2. Check your vitamin D levels
Sunlight is a source of vitamin D, a nutrient linked to sharper cognitive functioning and better emotional health. Consult with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement is right for you.
3. Get some light therapy
Give yourself every opportunity to experience daylight, such as placing exercise equipment or your work area near a window. Devices that simulate natural light can also help, like broad-spectrum lighting.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains can boost your energy and are important year round. Fruits and vegetables of deep green or orange, like broccoli, kale and carrots, contain nutrients that promote better mood and overall health.
5. Stimulate your senses
Some people find that painting their walls a bright color—or even their nails—can improve their outlook. Aromatherapy with peppermint or other scents can be energizing.
6. Nurture your spirit
Slow down and curl up in a cozy chair with a good book or journal for reflection.
7. Vacation in a sunnier climate
If time and budget allow, plan a midwinter visit to a warmer, sunnier climate.
8. See a therapist
A therapist can help you train your brain to think more positively about the darker seasons, which can make you feel better physically too.
Feeling Especially Depressed During Winter?
If you feel more than just "a little blue" each winter, with extreme symptoms such as missing work or struggling with even simple day-to-day tasks, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression. For some people, the lack of sunlight disrupts the body's ability to keep its complex chemistry and biological rhythms in sync; the body literally doesn't know when to be active and when to rest anymore. If you find your initial attempts to help yourself feel better aren't working, you may want to see your doctor who may recommend other treatments.