Freezing temperatures, gray skies, and snow boots – it’s no secret that winter can cause a dip in mood. Weeks of short days and little sunshine can lead to everything from slight moodiness to a form of clinical depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
People who live farthest from the equator are more likely to experience SAD and seasonal mood fluctuations, especially during the winter months. Symptoms can include sadness, depression, low energy, weight changes, and lack of motivation.
Everyone may experience these symptoms from time to time, but here are five tips to help improve your mood this winter.
1. Seek out vitamin D sources. Lack of vitamin D has been strongly associated with depression symptoms. Since sun exposure may be minimal during the winter months, the body’s vitamin D levels can dwindle. You might consider adding a vitamin D supplement during the winter and eating more vitamin D–rich foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks, some mushrooms, milk, and foods fortified with vitamin D.
2. Prioritize physical activity. It can be tough to muster the motivation to make it to the gym when temperatures are below zero, but exercise can boost your mood – which will help even more during the winter.
If you need a bit of extra motivation to get started, challenge yourself to commit to a fitness event that is at least three months away. You might consider signing up for a race or competition or setting your own specific goal. Jot down your exercise schedule at the beginning of the week and vary your workouts to keep it interesting.
3. Choose mood-boosting foods. Highly refined carbs and sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar level, which can leave you feeling cranky. Some comfort foods, however, can double as healthy pick-me-ups, especially if they contain mood-boosting nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, good carbohydrates (think whole grains and vegetables), and protein.
Consuming foods that have natural probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, miso soup, cultured vegetables, and sauerkraut, may also help improve mood by supporting gut health.
4. Be mindful of screen time. Screen time, including televisions, computers, and smartphones, has been associated with an increased risk of depression for everyone from kids to adults. Research shows that women may be even more prone to the negative impact of extended screen time than men.
Some screen time is necessary, but try to give yourself small breaks throughout the workday and be mindful about screen time in the evenings. Especially during the winter months when we may be more prone to feelings of depression, limiting screen time can have a big impact. Switch up scrolling through your phone at night for a good book, journal time, or even a brief nightly yoga routine.
5. Plan an adventure. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to after all the holidays, so hatch a plan to skip town! Start researching your next adventure – just thinking about it will be magic for your mood. Whether you jet to somewhere sunny or explore a nearby town, it can be a great way to break from your routine, reenergize, and get inspired.