With shorter days, colder weather, and often less activity, many people feel down and out during the winter months. Seasonal depression is a real phenomenon with physiological reasons. Here are some tips to improve your mood and reduce symptoms of the winter time blues:
1) Get Your Vitamin D
If you live in a cold weather climite, you are likely to have insufficent levels of vitamin D during the colder months. Even if you get outside often, your body will not be able to synthesize vitamin D unless your skin is exposed to the sun. You certainly won't catch me laying outside in a bathing suit on Christmas! This means that you may need to take a vitamin D3 supplement as low levels have been linked to depression and fatigue. Persistant deficiencies can cause cognitive decline and weakness, so don't skimp on your vitamin D.
2) Get outside early in the day
Yes, it is cold. However exposure to natural light and fresh air is critical. When we see natural sunlight our body releases cortisol and melinopsin. Although you may have heard of cortisol being the "stress hormone" it is actually good in moderation and when released at the right time of the day. Cortisol and melinopsin help regulate our internal clock or carcadian rhythm. Melinopsin is converted to melatonin over the course of approximately 18 hours, which helps us fall asleep at night. Regular sleep is neccessary for emotional wellbeing.
3) Reduce Screen Time
Many of use spends hours per day on our computer or phone which can really mess with our internal clock and emotional status. To optimize sleep we should avoid electronics for one to two hours before bed. Also, it has been shown that scrolling through facebook and instagram can lead to negative thoughts about yourself. Comparing yourself to others false reality which is desplayed online can really mess with your head. Keep in mind that people are generally only posting their best moments, and not their reality. In addition to the above mentioned, working on the computer or phone generally put us in a bad posture which is also linked to poor confidence and mood.
4) Stay Active
Movement helps the blood and lymph travel through the body to detoxify as it passes through the liver and kidneys. We need to consistently detoxify our bodies naturally for optimal cognitive funtioning and for improved energy levels. Exercise also releases hormones that make us feel happy.
It certainly is harder these days and now that everything is moving indoors for the winter, we have an even bigger challenge. However, socializing with friends releases dopamine, a powerful mood enhancer. Even talking on the phone with a friend can have this effect. If you are unable to get out and meet up with friends, plan weekly phone dates. Don't skip this step as human connection is arguably the most important aspect of life.
So yes, we are at a disadvantage during the winter months. However, there are many things we can do to improve our mood and stay healthy. Now you have every excuse to talk a walk to that coffee shop you have been missing and take a break with a friend!