There’s a reason they’re called the winter blues. Shorter days, holiday stress, colder weather, and changes in routine can cause a serious shift in mood. If you find yourself feeling depressed and lethargic by January or February, there’s good news: You’re not alone! In fact, there’s a more scientific name for this condition. Scientists and physicians refer to this common drop in mood as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. And when it comes to figuring out how to beat the winter blues, research suggests a few simple changes can restore you to your joyful self.
How to Beat the Winter Blues
Regular exercise is important no matter what your age, but it’s not just your muscles and joints that reap the benefits of working out. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise can boost your mood. So the next time you find yourself wondering how to beat the winter blues, head to the gym or bundle up and take a walk. According to the APA, working out doesn’t just improve your mood in the short term; it can also improve long-term depression.
Visit Friends and Family
It sounds so simple, but it’s true: Visiting with friends and family can increase your sense of joy and happiness. Researchers have studied the impact of relationships on overall health, and according to the Mayo Clinic, your friends and family can do more than help you overcome loss or recommend a great book; relationships can increase your sense of purpose, boost happiness, reduce stress, improve self-worth, and encourage you to change or improve lifestyle habits like adding in regular workouts and drinking more water.
Enjoy Natural Light
Days might get shorter during the winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in the dark. Exposure to sunlight is a key ingredient in the recipe to happiness, and it’s one way researchers have figured out how to beat the winter blues. According to clinical psychologist Josh Klapow, natural sunlight helps your body produce serotonin, which improves your mood. The easiest way to soak up some sunlight is to head outdoors, weather permitting. Even a short walk will do. If the roads and sidewalks are a little too icy, find a sunny spot to sit and read or enjoy a meal. The short exposure to sunlight will have you dreaming of summer in no time.
Did you know the average American spends 90 percent of their life indoors? Not surprisingly, getting outside can be harder as we get older. And yes, it might be cold and dreary, but that’s no reason to keep yourself locked up indoors. Bundle up, find the right footwear, and venture outside for a short walk or find a bench to sit and watch the wildlife. As we just mentioned, this will help you soak in some much-needed natural light, which also increases your production of vitamin D. According to Harvard University, that one crucial vitamin can protect against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, stroke, and even heart attack.
But that’s not the only reason you should make a point of spending time outdoors. Getting outside has been linked to improved mood. A study completed at the University of Essex in England showed that even just five minutes of outdoor time improved mood and self-esteem.
Getting plenty of sleep has been linked to improved focus and concentration, mental health, and even happiness. But when winter arrives, your regular sleep habits can take a hit as the hours of daylight shrink. As a result, you might not get the recommended eight hours of rest each night. That can impact your mood and how you interact with others. This handy chart shows how a lack of sleep can hurt your overall happiness, your ability to drive, and even your relationships. So as winter sets in, make an effort to get a full night’s rest.
Beating the winter blues is easier than you think, so don’t let yourself slip into seasonal affective disorder. Enjoy winter and all the beauty it offers.
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