Got the winter blues?
Ever notice yourself feeling blah or down during the winter months? You may be experiencing the winter blues.
The winter blues often happen in January and February. Why is this?
- The weather is often cold and damp. And if you are North it is also snowy and icy.
- Hello, cold and flu season!
- Days are shorter and therefore darker.
- There are no big holidays or celebrations. And we are crashing after the business of the Christmas holiday season.
- Don’t even get me started on New Years resolutions… can anyone say daunting?
So what exactly are the winter blues?
According to Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation, The winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. You may find yourself feeling more lethargic and down overall.
Now, as a clinical social worker I need to make something clear.
Winter blues is not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a subtype of major depression that is characterized by the onset of depression during winter months when there is less natural light. For many people, symptoms usually start in the fall and continue into the winter months. (Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation)
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Having low energy
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Problems sleeping
- Changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you think you are experiencing SAD please get support. Connect with your family doctor or a local counselling/mental health agency. There is no shame in need that extra support. You matter!
7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
Affiliate disclaimer: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means, if you are planning to buy something from below I would love if you would consider purchasing it through my link as I earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps keep my blog going!
1. Participate in a Gratitude Challenge
When I say expressing your gratitudes I don’t just mean loosely saying, “I’m thankful for food”. Instead I mean truly being thankful for specific things in your life. And going through life with an appreciative and thankful mindset.
There is so much research on the power and benefits of expressing and acknowledging our gratitudes.
Some benefits include:
- increased happiness and positive mood
- more satisfaction with life
- less materialistic
- less likely to experience burnout
- better physical health
- better sleep
- less fatigue
- lower levels of cellular inflammation
- greater resiliency
- encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom
Did you know that expressing our gratitudes each day can actually have amazing health benefits too!?!
2. Move Your Body
Moving your body, aka exercise, is one of the best interventions for anxiety, stress, and low mood.
Exercise doesn’t have to be pumping iron it can be easy and fun! Moving your body includes: going for a walk, Pilates, yoga, swimming, just to name a few.
Did you know that exercise can also include cranking some energetic tunes and dancing in your living room?
Although I do love a good dance party, I find it hard to know what to do in order to exercise well.
That is why I love my Beachbody on Demand subscription. It’s kind of like Netflix but for workout videos. And it even includes meal plans.
I love that after my kids are in bed I can go into my workout space (aka my bedroom) and do my workout without having to leave the house!
3. Get Outside!
I know it’s cold, specially for those who live North. Trust me I know that some days when its cold and dark and takes a lot of effort to bundle up, you really don’t feel like going outside.
But, I also know that it is good for you! So, get your butt outside anyway.
Bundle up nice and warm.
Make yourself a tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.
And make it more enjoyable by finding a beautiful place to hike/walk.
Or just commit to walking one block in your neighbourhood.
Another fun way to get yourself outside is to go skating, snowshoeing, tobogganing, or build a snowman.
My favourite thing to do is walk around trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue. When it’s snowing of course.
4. Take care of your physical health
Our body, brain, mind, and soul is so interconnected. If we want to ensure that we are healthy and well during the winter months we need to make sure that we are taking care of our physical health.
Because when we take care of our physical health we also improve our mental health and overall well-being.
Taking care of our physical health includes:
- Eating healthy
- Taking proper vitamins such as Vitamin D & C, of course always check with a doctor first). Did you know that if you live in North America you likely don’t get enough Vitamin D during the winter since the sun is so far away? Our bodies can’t make vitamin D on it’s own so we need to get it from the sun or a supplement.
- Get an appropriate amount of quality sleep.
5. Get cozy & read
I don’t know about you but I just love curling up on the couch with a good fun, light-hearted book and getting swept away into another world. Reading and using our imaginations can be so good for the soul, especially when it is dark and cold outside.
My 3 favourite light -hearted and funny books are:
Hygge is also good for the soul.
That’s the cozy part of ‘get cozy and read’.
Hygge is a Danish concept. According to the Oxford Dictionary, hygge means: “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”.
A hygge lifestyle, “refers to finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cozy atmosphere or the feeling of friendship. (AFAR)
SIGN ME UP! I could definitely go for a little more hygge in my life.
Here are my favourite images and examples of hygge…
as you can see, some hygge ingredients may include: good book, warm tea/coffee, sweet smelling candles, fuzzy or knit blanket, warm wool slippers, pillows, and plants.
I encourage you to find a space in your house where you can create a hygge atmosphere to help you get through the winter blues.
6. Be social
We are social beings and do not do well in isolation. I know if you are feeling the winter blues that you likely don’t feel like being around people but you need to be social!
Maybe this means calling or video chatting with close friend or family member. Or this may mean going out for coffee or a walk with a group of moms who also need a break.
Heck this could even look like throwing a BEAT THE WINTER BLUES party!!! Imagine how fun it would be to get a small group of friends together and throw a party for no reason other than to be social, have fun, and fight the winter blues together!
7. Practice meditation & mindfulness
A lot of the time when we are struggling with low mood our thoughts tend to wander to an unhealthy place. That place is usually either in the past or worrying about the future.
Did you know you can’t control either of those? Say what!?!
Crazy right? You don’t actually have any control over what already happened in the past and what is going to happen in the future. Therefore, it is unhelpful and unhealthy to let our mind get stuck there.
This is where meditation and mindfulness comes into play. Both of these activities requires us to be in the present and fully focusing on right here and now.
Mindfulness also has so many other mental health and even health benefits which you can learn more about here: How to Begin to Practice Mindfulness.
If this is something that you are interested in adding to your daily or weekly routine/ rhythm, I encourage you to sign up for my free Mindful Moments 6 week email sequence.
I know from personal experience that the winter blues are hard. And yes, some days are better than others.
But what I really want you to know is that you are not alone.
You can get through this period. Remember it won’t last forever. And it will be much more enjoyable and have less of an affect if you put into practice some of these 7 ways to beat the winter blues.
Lastly I need to say this… life is made up of a series of choices. You and only you are in control of what you do and how you respond. Therefore, it is up to you to choose to make the best of these difficult times. To choose health, wellness, and hygge. What choice are you going to make?
I want to end with this quote from the book Atomic Habits….
“Every action you take (or choice you make) is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” ~ James Clear, Atomic Habits
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