Winter can be a tough season for many people, especially those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder.
The shorter days, colder weather, change of activities, and lack of sunlight can all contribute to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and low energy. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help beat the winter blues and maintain your mental and physical health during the colder months. Here are six tips to try:
Get Some Sunlight
One of the leading causes of SAD is the reduced amount of sunlight during the winter months. Sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythm—your body’s daily clock that controls the ups and downs of your mood, digestion, sleep, and energy levels.
So, make an effort to get some sunlight each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Go for a walk outside, sit by a window, or at least open the blinds in your home to let in some natural light.
Exercise is a great way to boost your mood and energy levels, and it can also help you cope with stress and anxiety. The winter season often causes people to spend less time being active, which may contribute to the feelings associated with the winter blues.
Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. If it is too cold to go outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride, try indoor activities like yoga or strength training to stay active during the winter.
Eat a Balanced Diet
The holiday season is a good excuse for binging on tasty treats and excessive feasts. But this can quickly take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for your overall well-being, and it can also help you feel better during the winter. Focus on including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in your meals and snacks. Avoid sugary and processed foods, which can lead to a crash in energy and mood.
Drinking plenty of water is important for your physical health, and it can also positively impact your mood and energy levels. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to stay fully hydrated, and try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks, which may actually dehydrate you and interfere with your sleep and mood.
Get Enough Sleep
Good sleep is always essential for your physical and mental health, and it can be especially important during the winter when shorter days can disrupt your natural sleep patterns.
Aim for consistent 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid screens and bright lights before bed, as these can disrupt the hormones that regulate sleep.
Any time you are struggling, it can be helpful to concentrate your energy on the basic tasks of self-care and hygiene—showering, brushing your teeth, shaving, doing laundry, cleaning your home, etc. Although these things may seem too simple to meaningfully affect your mental health, they are often the first things to go when you are in a bad emotional state.