Music, Happy Snacks, and Fancy Lingerie: What Can Help Beat Back Winter Blues
The jury is still out on what triggers the winter doldrums, with everything from brain chemicals to genetics suggested as possibly causing people, particularly in colder climates, to succumb to the depression also known as "seasonal affective disorder." The condition makes people sluggish, agitated, and tired as the days grow darker and colder.
The notion that physical and mental health varies with the seasons goes back centuries. Even the ancient Chinese treatise
on health – The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, attributed to Huang Di and penned approximately around 300 B.C.E. – recommended that during winter, one should “retire early and get up with the sunrise. ... Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret.”
The malaise, often dubbed the winter blues, can take on a more serious manifestation such as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), first described in the 1980s. However, even the moods of healthy people can be negatively affected, so too their energy levels, during winter.
For those who cannot just whisk themselves away to a sun-drenched paradise like Hawaii when winter arrives, bringing with it freezing temperatures, a lack of sunlight, and the ensuing winter blues, there are a host of scientifically-backed tips touted to boost spirits. Doctors, nutritionists, and wellness experts all advise a proactive approach.
In other words, instead of slumping on the couch and munching your way through high-carb and sugary foods, there are tried and tested ways to tackle the darkest months of the year.
In the winter, as sunlight becomes weaker, our body clock becomes misaligned. According to scientists
at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, the United States, sunshine has a tremendous impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Getting outside and facing the chilly temperatures needs to be a priority; soaking up the fading sun is critical during the winter months. Seeking out those elusive rays helps balance serotonin activity, boosts melatonin production, and balances the circadian rhythm that allows us to get a relaxing snooze. It also increases vitamin levels that can help improve our emotional state.
Even while staying indoors, the advice is to move a chair or kitchen table next to a window that gets sunlight. Light therapy is also an option, with the US National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) recommending sitting in front of an artificial light, called a lightbox, first thing in the morning for 20 to 60 minutes.
Mood, to a huge degree, hinges on adequate, regular sleep, otherwise, our circadian rhythm can get disrupted, impacting cortisol rhythms and hormone production. To improve your sleep, clinical health psychologist Kelly Donahue, PhD suggests
trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
A bedtime routine that includes taking a bath, turning down the lights, and drinking herbal tea is touted as helpful, while experts suggest removing all electronic devices from the cool, dark room you sleep in.
Physical activity is a great mood booster, with experts recommending starting with 30 to 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, strength training, yoga, or other fitness-related activities five days a week.
If you cannot work up the energy for something strenuous, a Harvard study in 2005 suggested that just walking fast for about 35 minutes a day, five times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Consider exercising under bright lights while also listening to upbeat or cheery music, as recommended in a 2013 University of Missouri study
published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
It found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks.
The food you eat during when you are feeling blue is certainly worth considering. Consuming protein with breakfast, lunch, and dinner can enhance mood, while also beating back those sugar and carb cravings that tend to attack people later in the day. Certainly, candy and carbohydrates provide temporary onset of euphoria, but ultimately could contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as foods high in vitamin D
such as fatty fish, fish oil, and vitamin D fortified foods like milk, orange juice, breakfast cereal, yogurt, and other food sources that nutrition experts of the National Institutes of Health claim can help balance mood.
Furthermore, oils and minerals in fish are great for hair and skin, which can typically get really dry due to heat in our homes during winter.
Switch Up Your Aesthetic
While the darker winter months may prompt people to opt for function and practicality over form when it comes to style, experts suggest finding small ways to bring in bright, feel-good details.
26 September 2019, 10:46 GMT
If wearing sexy lingerie or hanging up twinkle lights in your bedroom work for you – why not do it?
And finally, why not seek comfort during the cold long nights by looking ahead and planning a vacation?
It might be a sunny beach getaway or a fascinating trip to faraway places – research published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life in 2010 showed that the simple act of planning a holiday boosts
one overall happiness.