For those of us living in areas of the U.S. that experience cold weather, this part of winter can be downright brutal. It feels colder every day, daylight hours don’t seem to be getting any longer, and the stir craziness starts to kick in. Many people even experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It usually kicks in at the end of fall and lasts through winter.
For years as a teenager, I would feel completely drained of energy during winter, and my interest in things that would normally make me happy wavered. Now that I know what the cause is and to expect these feelings every year, I've developed a routine to battle winter blues and SAD, and I faithfully practice it as soon as the weather begins to turn cold. Here’s how you can, too.
TAKE A WALK EVERY DAY
Whether you work from home or an office, take a walk every day during daylight hours, since natural light exposure helps with depression and mood. I make an effort to walk my dog before noon so I can get plenty of sun on my face. And on the days when the weather is just too snowy or gross for him, I motivate myself with caffeine by walking to the furthest coffee shop from my place.
GO SANS SUNGLASSES
When you’re on those walks, it’s important that your eyes get a lot of exposure to that natural light, so skip the sunglasses if you can–except on those days when the snow is blinding you. It keeps your circadian rhythm (aka your inner clock) on point, allowing you to be more focused during the day and sleep better at night.
PRACTICE SELF CARE
When you’re not feeling great about yourself, it’s easy to neglect your body and its needs. Taking a day each week to unwind and care for yourself goes a long way.
EAT (DECENTLY) WELL
I’m one to go after comfort foods during the winter. And, by all means, I still do this often, but too much makes me feel sluggish. I strive to make little healthy choices that make a big difference, like eating a salad for lunch nearly every day. And for those afternoons when I just need something hot, I keep things vegetable-based. I love these recipes:
- Crispy Shredded Brussels Sprouts
- Parmesan Butternut Squash Noodles
- Apple Cinnamon Oats
- Turmeric Cauliflower Rice
WORK OUT…OR AT LEAST STRETCH
It’s really easy for me to avoid hitting the gym when my excuse is that it’s too cold or nasty out to make the trip. But after about a week of this, I feel terrible. I’m stiff and my happiness level completely bottoms out. It makes sense because when you get your body moving, it releases little happiness-inducing endorphins in your brain. Shoot for a sweat session several times a week, and on days that you don’t, take a little time to stretch or do a quick yoga flow.