Football season is mostly over. Christmas is only a memory. You’ve made your new year’s resolutions and are trying to implement healthy changes. Just then, the sneaky winter blues start creeping up.
Why do you still feel so unmotivated and blah?!
Many of us get a little blue during the months of January and February. It’s a time of year when we’re past the “fun” of winter. It’s cold. The weather can be a bit on the dreary side. Spring fever hasn’t hit yet, but cabin fever’s in full swing.
There are plenty of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). This condition can be even more serious than a blah mood and can escallate to full-blown depression. SAD is often caused by a decreased exposure to light, vitamin D and other elements that produce the feel-good chemicals we get the rest of the year. In the winter, people who suffer from SAD may need to enlist the help of a doctor to combat this disorder.
On the other hand, most of us might not feel we have SAD, but we still get a little down-in-the-dumps during the long winter months. Here’s how to boost your mood and beat those winter blues!
1. Get Outdoors at Peak Times
When it’s too cold to run outdoors in the morning or evening, you may feel as though you never get outside. Get some sunshine whenever you can by scheduling a brisk outdoor walk or running errands in the middle of the day. Your lunch hour is a great time to bundle up and run to the coffee shop or take a hike around the block. At the very least, try to sit by a window for a few minutes, especially if the sun is shining.
On the weekends, workout outside during the warmest hours (usually between 11am – 2pm) even if you can only stay out for a short time. Aim for 20 minutes of fresh air and sunshine at least a few times per week.
2. Eat Vitamin-Rich Foods (Like Plants)
Our diets have a big effect on our energy levels and moods. It’s tempting to pack on the comfort foods like chocolate, pizza and pasta when you’re feeling down, but eating a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables will help ensure you’re getting enough vitamins to keep your body feeling good.
Try a diet plan based adjusted for those with SAD, or simply aim to incorporate more folate-rich foods like beans and leafy greens into your diet. Enjoy nuts, fruits like citrus fruit and berries, as well as whole grains whenever possible. Avoid sugary, processed junk that will leave you feeling more sluggish. Drink plenty of water too!
Noone wants to hear that they should exercise when they’d rather be curled up on the couch with Netflix, but getting in some movement is a great way to keep your mood lifted.
Even if you aren’t feeling up to your workout routine, make every effort possible to fit in micro-bursts of exercise. Walk for ten minutes around your house, get your heart rate pumping with some jumping jacks or take some trips up and down the stairs. Once your blood starts pumping you just might feel motivated to keep going.
4. Boost Your Vitamin D & B12
Of course check with your doctor before changing up your vitamin intake, but if you’ve got a bad mood you just can’t seem to shake, ask about your vitamin D and B12 levels.
These two vitamins are often low among vegetarians (especially B12) and may also be lower in the wintertime. In either case, low levels can leave you feeling down and tired without knowing why. It may be as simple as taking a supplement or a multivitamin containing these ingredients.
5. Embrace Routine
For me, over-thinking is a big one. Sometimes the anxiety of facing a job I don’t want to do is much worse than the job itself. This is especially true when it comes to activities like exercise, cleaning the house or taking care of “jobs” I don’t feel like doing.
When this happens, routine is your best friend. If you’ve set up activities–like making your bed in the morning, preparing lunches at night, or loading and unloading the dishwasher–as routine, you won’t have to think about them and will be less apt to put them off. Look at it this way, you brush your teeth every day even without thinking about it, right? By incorporating other activities so they become as routine as grabbing your toothbrush, you’re more likely to do them without stressing out about it.
6. Focus on Self-Care
Self-care is a big buzzword these days. When you’re battling winter blues, self-care is really important. It’s especially important because feeling like you aren’t getting enough done, or are “failing” tends to make you get down on yourself.
Instead, nurture yourself. If you need a day to rest, take it. Pamper yourself by doing something nice–get your haircut, purchase a small cosmetic product, take yourself out for coffee or sit and read a book. Re-watch your favorite movie or take an afternoon to play a video game that makes you happy. For some, this may feel like avoidance, but shift your mindset–it’s not avoidance, it’s self-preservation.
7. Be Thankful
I was listening to Freakonomics’ podcast the other day called “Why is My Life So Hard?” The podcast discussed what’s called the Hedonic Treadmill–our tendency to have a happiness setpoint. Meaning, when good things happen, we may feel a boost, but if we’re negative thinkers, we quickly return to our previous mindset. One way to counteract this is to think of all of the positive things in your life you feel grateful for.
Many of us remember to appreciate the big stuff–our health, our family and friends. But what about the little things? Take a cup of coffee for example, how many people contributed to your morning drink? There was the person who picked the beans, the person who roasted them, bagged them, the driver who took the shipment to the store, the people who manufactured your coffee maker, and the kid who stocks the grocery shelves. Realizing that many people contribute to our everyday enjoyment shifts our perspective to a bigger-picture. We may start to appreciate the little stuff more.
8. Bring the Outdoors In
Nature’s beauty is so easy to embrace in the spring, summer and fall. Even the early days of winter, when snow is fresh, are beautiful. When the days become grey and the world looks slushy, dirty and dead, it’s harder to appreciate nature.
Find other sign of nature and life to bring indoors. Spend time tending to your houseplants. Admire a beautiful piece of wood or rock used in your decorating. Look at pictures of your favorite National Parks or landscapes (I love Zion!). Incorporate natural elements into your household decor, to remind yourself that there’s a big, bright, gorgeous world out there. It’s simply in a season of slumber right now.
9. Force Yourself to Be Social
Whenever the winter blues hit, getting social becomes tough. Most of us go into hermit mode. We prefer the company of our couch and TV. While it’s important not to overcommit or say yes to commitments you’d rather avoid, getting in some social time is still important.
Remember the game the Sims? You had to spend time filling up your Sim’s “social” metter or else they would become sad. Well, people are largely the same. You have to fill up your social metter occasionally. So when a friend asks you to do something and you catch yourself glancing longingly at your couch, force yourself to say yes. Chances are high you’ll feel better once you’re there and you’ll be glad you did it.
10. Snuggle with Pets
Pets boost our moods. They require care. They make us take a walk, dangle a toy, or simply think past ourselves. They also give us unconditionally love.
There’s nothing better to boost your mood than the soft purrs of a snuggle cat, or a sweet dog that rests his head on your feet. Our fur-babies help us connect with another living creature. They make us appreciate life more and they open our hearts to caring for something. While pets are a responsibility, sometimes that responsibility is enough to push us out of a funk and get us to play some fetch.
11. Listen to Music
When you’re feeling blah, do you ever catch yourself listening to sad songs? Sometimes it feels good to wallow a bit and indulge our moods but other times, those sad tunes serve as fuel for our sadness. If you’re listening to music that reminds you of someone you’ve lost, past relationships or something that brings on the wistfulness and nostalgia, it’s probably time to switch it up.
Make a motivating playlist or mix to get you feeling more upbeat. Put on some music while you clean your house, shower, prep food for the week or jog on the treadmill. Find songs that pump you up and help you smile. Music can be a powerful mood booster.
12. Do ONE Thing
So, you just can’t today? Instead of thinking of ALL the things you need to do, think of the ONE thing you could do today that would make you feel like you accomplished something. Maybe it’s simply going to work. Maybe it’s putting forth an effort to fix your hair or dress up. It could be hitting the gym or doing a load of laundry.
Pick the one thing that will make you feel better about taking a break. Do it, get it over with and see how you feel. Amazingly, sometimes we get a little mood boost once we’ve checked off a task. Suddenly we feel like we’re not behind on everything, failing or avoiding. We did something worthwhile and tomorrow we’ll do something else that’s worthwhile.
If you’re struggling with the winter blues, cut yourself some slack. Wintertime is tough for many people. Do what you can, embrace healthy behaviors whenever possible, and realize, winter’s only temporary. When March rolls around you’ll feel back to your regular sunny self. In the meantime, hang in there. Spring is just around the corner.