It’s cold. It’s dark by dinnertime. And did we mention it’s cold?
Even the most diehard fan of All Things Winter might occasionally feel the chilling effects of the season—disinterest, fatigue, tiredness, sadness—as winter marches on. In order to counteract the winter blues, experts suggest the following:
Bundle up and step outside when the sun is shining. According to a study in Nutrition Research, approximately 42 percent of U.S. adults are deficient in vitamin D, crucial in overall bone health. Without it, the body can’t absorb calcium, so it steals calcium from bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. The “sunshine vitamin” is most effectively absorbed from the sunlight via the skin. It’s a scientific fact that when we humans don’t get enough sunlight, the body’s biological clock in charge of brain activity and hormone production, or our circadian rhythm, is affected—and not in a good way. Doses of natural sunlight can help tremendously.
Eat healthy, vitamin-D rich foods. When vitamin D levels are low, people are more likely to feel lethargic, anxious, or despondent, often associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. And that isn’t the only side effect of a vitamin D deficiency, low levels of the vitamin are also tied to poor health outcomes: breast cancer patients with low levels of vitamin D don’t fare as well as patients with healthy levels of vitamin D, men with low levels of vitamin D are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and there’s an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and psoriatic arthritis, causing joint pain and inflammation. The Endocrine Society recommends that healthy adults take up to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily—more if they get little or no sun exposure (although it’s always best to check with your doctor, as there’s no“one size fits all” approach. A simple blood test can determine a deficiency). Good sources of vitamin D include fortified cereal, orange juice, milk, eggs, tuna, salmon, and mushrooms.
Utilize bright light therapy by investing in a light box. Research by Harvard Health Publications found that using a light box to relieve seasonal affective disorder can be just as effective as taking an antidepressant. There are some good tips about how to choose a light therapy box on this site.
Get moving! Exercise is a miracle mood-booster. If the weather outside is frightful, do a little stretching, put in an exercise DVD (there are some really great at-home workouts available today, for every level of ability), or take a spin on a stationary bike. Other low-impact ways to get the blood pumping include mall-walking, water aerobics, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Spend more time with loved ones, whether in-person, online, or over the phone. Socializing is a powerful way to lift your spirits, no matter your age.
Keep your mind active. Spend more time doing crosswords, Sudoku, or puzzles, and less time zoning out in front of the TV.
Find ways to give back. There are countless organizations out there waiting for your help. Be someone who strives to change the world for the better.
Wash your hands. A lot. This is a germy time of year. The best way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria is practicing good hand hygiene through regular cleansing, sanitizing, and applying restorative cream.
Make a book and movie list. What have you been wanting to read or watch? This is the ideal time for a challenge.
Stick to a schedule when it comes to sleep, physical activity, and eating.
Think positive. Ever heard the expression “Fake it ‘til you make it?” If you change your frame of mind, you might even find yourself enjoying winter instead of dreading it. Focus on the positive. The snow is pretty, there’s a peaceful calm in the air, and maybe most importantly: winter won’t last forever. Before you know it, spring will be here.