Say Goodbye to Winter Blues: 6 Tips to Keep Your Mood in Check

Nancy Dinshaw
January 26, 2022
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So many things happen during winter: Holiday cheer, family time, hard-earned vacation days, and crisp evenings drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace. But with most of the United States seeing less than 10 hours of daylight per day during the winter months, you might find yourself experiencing some mood changes - even if you enjoy the
season as a whole.

Take some time to check in with your mood. If it extends beyond mild sadness and energy loss, consider seeking professional help. For moderate mood swings, we may not be able to snap our fingers and completely erase any trace of winter melancholy, but it doesn't have to all be doom and gloom. Minor adjustments to our everyday habits can ensure we're maintaining our spirits up during the darkest months of the year and getting our body engines revving by feeding them the good stuff. Here are six things you can do to help beat the winter blues:

1. Move your body every day.

One of the most important commitments you can make to yourself during the winter is keeping your body in motion. According to Harvard Medical School, getting in 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week and two days of muscle strengthening activities is a sensible goal. This can look like a 21-minute daily walk, or, if you find it is impossible to find the time to move every single day, a 30-minute burst of activity five times per week. A walk or run are great free ways to get some movement in, but if your schedule and finances permit, pour some creativity into your workout. Research whether your favorite studios offer online classes, or simply do a quick cardio circuit search on YouTube.

2. Chase the daylight.

Soaking in vitamin D is essential for your health, both mental and physical. By exposing yourself to sunlight, your body increases its levels of serotonin - a mood-boosting chemical which lowers levels of sadness or depression. Spending time outdoors can also increase levels of melatonin, which lower stress, and help strengthen your immune system, putting you in a better position to fight off pesky winter infections. If you are able to adjust your work schedule, set yourself up for success by getting sunlight in the a.m. (research shows it helps improve your sleep!), or during lunch. If your schedule does not allow you to be outdoors during the day, then …

3. Invest in a sunlamp.

A sunlamp - a special light that mimics nature. Invest in ways to bring a bit of daylight into your routine even if your schedule does not allow for outdoor time. While there is nothing that can replace the vitamin D king himself, keeping a sunlamp nearby can positively affect your body's sleep cycle and provide a mood boost. If you are feeling gloomy, purchasing a sunlamp can be an easily accessible solution, as they are available at most major retailers. A bonus? Many of them feature a sleek, futuristic design, making them just as great of an investment for your space as they are for your disposition.

4. Prioritize sleep.

It's no secret that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule has a plethora of health benefits. Keeping up with restful slumber (yes, even on the weekends!) keeps your body's internal clock in check and can actually help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Not to mention, getting quality Zs can dramatically improve your mood. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that subjects limiting their sleep schedule to 4.5 hours per night for one week reported
feeling stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When increasing their sleep intake, their mental state received a huge boost.

5. Create an evening routine.

A consistent evening routine lets your body know when it is time to wind down and helps improve the overall quality of your sleep. After a long day of work, set some time aside to treat your body and mind to a relaxing act of kindness. If you are not able to commit to an extended ritual, choose one thing that brings you joy and commit to doing it for at least 15 minutes before hitting the sack. The catch? It should not revolve around electronic devices.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • brew a cup of (decaffeinated) tea
  • light up a candle and curl up with a good book
  • turn up a guided meditation
  • spend some time on your porch, admiring the stars
  • journal

6. Lose yourself in a new hobby.

Research has shown that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from low moods and depression. Being cooped up indoors during the cold months is the best time to try something new - and could even make for a heartwarming bonding moment among family members with a new shared interest. Looking for your next favorite activity?

These newfound hobbies can help fight off the winter blues:

  • baking
  • virtual travel through online tours
  • knitting
  • learning a new language
  • calligraphy
  • embroidery
  • soapmaking

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