Boosting Mental Well-Being in Winter

For many, winter is associated with happy things like crisp weather, warm beverages, and dazzling light displays. But for others, the weather change and shorter days signal a downturn in mood and energy that leaves them feeling sad, lethargic, and fatigued.

There are several reasons why a change in seasons can negatively affect a person’s thoughts and feelings. With the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures, feelings of isolation, withdrawal and symptoms of situational depression can increase.

Symptoms of seasonal low mood can include:

  • Negative or guilty thoughts
  • Mental fogginess
  • Purposefully avoiding social interaction
  • Overeating and emotionally eating
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory

The good news is that there are many natural ways to support your mental well-being and reduce the symptoms that come with the winter blues. To promote full mental wellness, here are several strategies to boost your mood this winter:

Embrace the Light

The cold might make you want to hibernate, but spending time outdoors is a great remedy for the winter blues. Daily exposure to appropriate levels (10 to 30 minutes a day) of direct sunlight can boost vitamin D3 levels, which can help improve your mood. With the right winter gear, taking a brisk walk or jog can feel invigorating. Engaging in outdoor classes or winter sports can also be a fun way to enjoy the season. If you have a hard time getting enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a therapy lamp for your home or work desk. Though many artificial light boxes claim to do the job, make sure to purchase one that provides 10,000 lux light. Absorbing vitamin D is extra important during winter months in New England. Check with your doctor to see if adding a Vitamin D supplement might be helpful to you during darker, winter months.

Turn Your Home Into Your Refuge

Many of us are largely “sheltering at home” due to the pandemic. Vacations and visits with family and friends are limited or non-existent. Reframe the feeling of being trapped inside to allowing it to afford you an opportunity for indulgent self-care practices. Luxuriate in longer bathing routines, go to sleep a little earlier, and prep food so you can eat clean and healthy. If you really want to feel productive, try tending to things you may put off during nicer weather months like sorting through your piles, your to-do lists, or cleaning out a drawer or closet. Decreasing clutter and indoor chaos can make your home feel more like a sanctuary to replenish in.

Find Support in Community

Having a strong community means that support is just a phone call, email, or Zoom visit away. Spending time in a positive community is a wonderful way to boost your bliss hormones, such as oxytocin. Though isolating yourself during tough times may feel like the safest option, closing yourself off from the world can aggravate negative feelings. Resist the urge to shut out the individuals who can offer you encouragement and support. To improve your mental and emotional fitness, surround yourself with people who are positive and engage in healthy habits.

Get Your Workouts In

Physical exercise is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your mental well-being. Exercise increases levels of dopamine and can boost blood flow to deliver oxygen and other positive nutrients to the brain. To maintain an even mood and a sense of mind-body balance, establish a daily exercise routine that works for you and stick to it.

Overall, we need to be proactive and conscious about enduring the long, winter season. Whether you create indoor coziness or restorative self-care practices, bundle up and get outdoors, or Zoom with loved ones, consider how you can reframe your perspective on the season to move from surviving to thriving this winter!

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