We all feel down in the dumps from time to time, particularly in winter. The lack of sunlight, the cold, the snow often leads us to want to hibernate inside until the Spring! There are some things you can do to make yourself feel better. Here are some tips to help boost your mood:
- Make your environment brighter. Especially in winter the amount of sunlight we are exposed to is more limited. Opening the window shades and sitting closer to a window can help provide an extra dose of sunlight. If all else fails, using a light box-a source of artificial light for 30 minutes each morning can be effective as well.
- Eat smarter. Eat as healthy as possible. While a little chocolate can help alleviate anxiety and improve your mood, certain foods like candy, processed foods and refined carbohydrates can cause dips in your mood state. Try to focus on ‘clean eating’, fruits, veggies, protein and healthy fats. Stay away from junk food.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and marijuana are depressants and while they in some cases may provide temporary relief, they ultimately can affect your mood by increasing feelings of depression and anxiety as well as alter focus, memory, perception, concentration and judgment.
- Exercise. Multiple studies show that people with depression and anxiety benefit from regular exercise. It helps alleviate stress and boosts endorphins in the brain. Even brisk walking for 30 minutes a day can improve your mood.
- Turn on the tunes. Studies show listening to upbeat, cheery music can improve your mood. Dance like nobody is watching-it boosts those endorphins, those feel good chemicals in our brains!
- Plan a vacation or other event to look forward to. A future trip to the beach with friends, a get way, concert or other event will give you something to look forward to.
- Help others. Volunteering your time can improve your mental health and general life satisfaction.
- Get outside. Despite the chilling temperatures, spending time outside can improve your mood, focus and lower stress levels. Just 15 minutes a day in the sunshine can boost Vitamin D levels. Bundle up and build a snowman, go ice skating or take a walk. Studies have shown that just being out in nature can ground us and improve our moods.
- Watch a funny movie, get goofy with your friends. Laughter really is the best medicine!
- Stay social. People have a tendency to hibernate in the winter. Isolation can increase feelings of depression. Stayed connected and spend time with loved ones.
How do you know it’s more than the winter blues?
Duration: If your depressed mood has lasted every day for more than 2 weeks and you cannot shake it despite your best efforts-you may be experiencing a clinical depression.
Intensity: If you are unable to perform your normal every day activities due to a depressed mood, this is likely more than the run of the mill ‘blues’. In extreme cases, depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness and suicidal acts or thoughts. If this is the case, please seek assistance immediately.
Symptoms: In addition to a sad or depressed mood, people with clinical depression often experience other symptoms such as weight loss/gain, sleep difficulties (sleeping too much, insomnia or frequent waking), loss of interest in activities, feelings of guilt, hopelessness or helplessness, fatigue/loss of energy and poor concentration.
Causes: Feeling down or blue can be caused by stressful life situational-such as the loss of a loved one, break up of a relationship, etc. For some people, there is often a biological/genetic predisposition to depression and these stressful events can trigger a depressive episode.
Seasonal affective disorder is really a thing. Many people are affected by the diminished sunlight and shortened days, which in turn can affect your mood.
If you think what you are experiencing could be more than the winter blues and would like to speak with a professional counselor, please contact us at LifeStance Health for an appointment. We are happy to help!
If you are in crisis and cannot wait for an appointment, please go to the nearest emergency room for assistance.