Whether you live in sunny California or you're buried under a foot of snow in Michigan, the winter blahs can make you want to hibernate. Winter causes a mild case of the blues in about 25 percent of people in the U.S. About 6 percent suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
People with the winter blues often have less energy and a bigger appetite. They might experience symptoms including fatigue, an increased desire to be alone, a greater need for sleep, and trouble concentrating during this season.
It’s possible to avoid the blues by listening to your body, getting outside when possible, and exercising. Here are seven tips to help you navigate the season.
Listen to Your Body
When daylight hours decrease, the pineal gland amps up its production of melatonin. This is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Instead of sticking to your schedule year-round, listen to your body. When you're tired, go to sleep.
Winter weather can make it difficult to get outside for your daily run or walk, and this can lead to grumpiness. If you can't get outside, go to the gym, take a yoga class, or head to your local indoor pool. Exercise is a natural way to release positive chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins, that help lift your mood and energy.
Get Some Sunshine
Take a hint from your cat. Lying in a window with the sun beaming in can trick your body into thinking that it's summer. If you're not going south this winter, you may be low on vitamin D which you primarily get by exposing your bare skin to sunlight. If you’re vitamin D deficient (you can find out with a simple blood test), a supplement or a change in diet could help so talk to your primary health care provider.
Embrace the Fun Parts of Winter
Think about what you like in the winter. Maybe it’s a cozy fire, a cup of cocoa, or a day on the ski slopes. Anything that reminds you that this time of year can be joyous and fun will help you to flourish. Create a calendar of events to look forward to. If you’re social, plan a party. If you enjoy cooking, try a gourmet recipe of seasonal foods.
Capitalize on Your Sense of Touch
In winter, our skin is under layers of heavy clothing and mittens. This is a great excuse to get a massage. Massages provide great therapeutic potential. You can even self-massage your forearms, neck, and shoulders. Touching and being touched are restorative. Use scented oil in your massage to evoke happy thoughts.
Meditation can help you transcend the cold. An experiment at Bowling Green University showed that people who meditated for 20 minutes daily for a two-week period prior to the experiment had a higher tolerance for the cold. Other benefits included better mood and lower anxiety.
Learn Something New
Having a new goal or renewed sense of purpose increases happiness, according to studies at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Try learning a new language or taking an online course or massive open online course (MOOC). Choose something that will help you become a better version of you. Set small attainable goals with built-in rewards to keep you learning and growing.
Remember that your thoughts will become your reality. Try changing how you think about winter. View it as an opportunity for renewal, planning, and healing. It’s the preface to spring, a time of new beginnings, and planting seeds. Winter provides an opportunity to get yourself in balance physically, mentally, and emotionally so that you are ready to emerge as your best self in spring.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.