The holidays are behind you but winter is still hanging on. Even though daylight saving is coming in the next few weeks, this is the time of year that many people start feeling the drag of the winter doldrums and begin posting pictures of snow, rain, and cold to Facebook and asking, “When will winter ever end?”
If it’s hard to get out of bed and you feel like you are stuck in never-ending hibernation, get inspired by a few end-of-winter simple strategies to help you survive until the longer, warmer days of spring arrive.
Many people – especially women – experience seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder related to how much light we are exposed to in a day. You can help your winter blues by simply adding a little light. Some people find full-spectrum lightboxes helpful, especially when used with a dawn simulator, but you don’t have to go to that expense to get some benefit.
Simply getting outside, even if it’s overcast, for one extra hour a day is beneficial. Another answer? Replace your lightbulbs, particularly reading and overhead lights, with full-spectrum bulbs. The natural light emitted by natural bulbs may not be enough to cure a bonafide diagnosis of SAD, but studies have shown that the light has a positive psychological effect, making people feel more positive and motivated. When the daylight returns fully, switch back your old bulbs until next fall.
Adjust Your Diet
As appealing as it might sound to eat carbohydrate-laden snacks and comfort food, it might be the worst thing for you. While sugary and starch-laden foods might taste good in the moment, or even give you a temporary high, they can also leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Instead make sure you eat plenty of protein and vegetables, especially those rich in folic acid, vitamin D and vitamin B12, in smaller meals throughout the day to help regulate blood sugar spikes.
If you want to reach for something sweet, pick up some dark chocolate. One study found that a component of dark chocolate, cocoa polyphenols, helped improve anxiety and depression for the participants.
Join a Fitness Class
Joining a class is different than just simply saying you are going to go to the gym more. That’s because signing up for a class gives you motivation and accountability to your exercise plan. Try joining a class that is naturally fun, such as Zumba, versus a class you know will be more mentally vigorous. Enlist a friend to join you to help ensure you go regularly. Studies show that any form of regular exercise can help ease symptoms of depression.
Do Something for Someone Else
We can’t control how fast spring arrives, but researchers have discovered that simply doing good deeds for someone else increases our perception that karma will return our favor with a good deed in return.
Other studies show that when we increase compassion, we increase our social connection to others and the world. Social connection, in turn, reduces our feelings of loneliness and depression. But you don’t have to make a commitment to volunteering or donating to get this effect, even simple acts of kindness can help you get out of your winter abyss such as paying for the coffee of the car behind you in the Starbucks drive-through, helping a mother in a grocery store who is struggling with a crying child, or calling a friend and offering to do a simple household errand or chore.