With the holiday season at an end and the New Year celebrations fizzling out, the cold, harsh reality has officially begun to set in: winter is here. Yes, through January and February—and sometimes even March—winter takes over, with few moments of warmth sprinkled throughout. With the deep cold, consistent darkness and long hours spent indoors, winter can be a pretty difficult season to get through, and it can often affect our mood.
In fact, according to Mental Health America, there’s even a term for it: seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal depression, “... or the ‘winter blues,’ is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months.” It’s true: with a lack of Vitamin D and little time spent outdoors, the winter months can literally make you sad. Luckily, we have some ways to combat seasonal depression. Check out our five ways to stay happy and hopeful during winter.
1. Stay active.
A professor of kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton, Patria Laguna, PhD, says, “Exercise can boost your mood, and you need that lift even more during the winter.” While many people set exercising as their New Year’s Resolution, it can do even more for you than losing a few inches around the waist. In fact, exercising can literally improve your mood during the long, cold winter months. It can be hard finding ways to exercise when it’s particularly cold outside, so get creative. Check out local gyms, exercise outside on warm days or search in-home workouts online for new ideas.
2. Be social.
Bears may need to hibernate during winter, but that doesn’t mean humans have to. Shutting yourself away and spending extra time indoors alone does not help when it comes to combating seasonal depression. Instead, get a group of friends together and make it your goal to be social. Even if “socializing” is simply sitting around in your pj’s by the fire sipping wine, surrounding yourself with positive people to connect with, it may be the perfect way for you to stay happy during winter.
3. Embrace the season.
Sure, winter might have its downfalls, but it has plenty of great qualities to enjoy, as well. Don’t wish them all away by focusing on the upcoming seasons. Instead, embrace winter while you still can! Sip hot chocolate by the fire, go ice skating, sled down a hill, build a gingerbread house, the whole schabang. Not only will you have a lot more fun during winter, but it will help it fly by even faster, leaving you hopeful for spring and summer.
4. Eat well.
Let’s be honest: all those treats we eat over the holidays and New Year’s may be fun in the moment, but they don’t leave our bodies feeling too great. As winter comes to an end, help your body feel better by treating it better. Elizabeth Somer, RD, and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, says sugar and highly refined carbs can wreak havoc on the body’s blood sugar level, which can often leave us feeling cranky. So, help combat the winter blues by being more conscious of what you put it into your body, and eating foods that fuel you well.
5. Keep your mind engaged.
Finally, with a healthy body comes a healthy mind. On a cold winter night, it’s easy to want to curl up and watch mind-numbing television for hours on end. Unfortunately, this can also lead to a heightened risk of seasonal depression. Instead, keep your mind engaged by reading books that interest you, doing puzzles that challenge you or keeping a journal that focuses you. Having a sharp mind will help you to stay positive throughout the winter months.
When the parties come to an end, winter can be a pretty tough season to get through. However, that doesn’t mean you have to just sit tight and buckle in. Stay happy and hopeful this winter by trying out some of these helpful seasonal survival tips.