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Beating the Winter Blues: How to Embrace Winter

With the declining temperatures and hours of daylight, you might be left feeling jealous of mammals who hibernate, and thus can “check out” during the winter months to reenergize. It’s normal to feel a little down and less energetic with the seasonal change, so you’re not the only one dreaming of a hibernation period. Unfortunately, most of us have work and other obligations that impede us from going on such an extended retreat. Fortunately, some minor lifestyle changes can make a big difference in elevating your mood and energy levels this winter. Here are 5 suggestions on how to beat the winter blues and make the best of the season.

TIP #1. Some individuals experience corresponding depression with the seasons known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Don’t neglect to take your emotions seriously. Here’s a good resource to check out for symptoms of SAD if you suspect you might be struggling with this disorder.

TIP #2. Even if you don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective disorder, you might benefit from some of the same treatment options recommended for individuals who do, like light therapy. Not only are there fewer hours of sunlight during the winter, but we also tend to cover more of our skin to keep warm when it’s chilly, which together can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Just 30 minutes of daily exposure to artificial light has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant medication, so consider purchasing a so-called “light box”!

TIP #3. Studies have repeatedly found that exercise can elevate mood. Even though it’s cold out, if it’s safe to go outside, try to be active in the great outdoors. Some research has found that just a one-hour daily walk can be as effective as light therapy for helping to manage seasonal blues. There are also plenty of fun winter sports, like ice-skating, that you can engage in with friends and family. Belonging is important to our happiness. Spending time with friends and family is beneficial, and doubly so if you are spending that time being active.

TIP #4. Eating healthy is highly beneficial for your overall health and happiness. Try roasting seasonal vegetables for a healthy winter treat. They are delicious with just a dash of sea salt and olive oil, so take this opportunity to try some new ones you might not have considered like daikon radishes, shiitake mushrooms, parsnips, and acorn squash. You may wish to drink this holiday season, perhaps pairing your veggies with a glass of mulled wine. Red wine may have some health benefits, but remember to be careful about how much you drink this winter. Indeed, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol for these health benefits. Alcohol is a chemical depressant, and can have negative effects on your mood, in addition to being a potentially addictive substance. Also, some people should not drink (e.g., pregnant women, people on medications that interact with alcohol, those who struggle with addiction), but there are plenty of other ways to feel good this holiday without alcohol. Please read the next tip.

TIP #5. Make a list of fun hobbies and things you’ve always wanted to learn how to do. Start new traditions with your family, like having board game nights. Begin a new project. Have indoor picnics by the fireplace. To avoid feeling like you’re trapped in the house, try changing the way you view your home; it’s not a prison but a place to play and unwind. And if you’re still stewing with anticipation, plan a vacation for early spring. Merely organizing a future getaway can lead to greater overall happiness!

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