Good-bye, T-shirts, and hello, layers! As winter rapidly approaches, many of us dread the cold weather and feel a sense of nostalgia for the summer weather that never seems to last quite long enough.
If you haven’t accepted that winter is around the corner, you’re not alone. With shorter days and less time being spent outside, it’s common to feel off. But if you find yourself unable to shake these negative thoughts and they’re affecting your personal life or work environment, it’s possible you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a form of depression that’s directly related to changes in seasons. In most cases, people with SAD experience symptoms at the beginning of fall that continue through the winter months, depleting energy and making people moody. Symptoms can include:
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
Don’t confuse SAD with just having days when you feel down, though. Let’s face it – we aren’t perfect, and we’re going to have bad days. However, if you feel down for several days at a time and can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, it might be time to see a doctor.
If your change in mood is just a case of the winter blues, there are several ways to overcome those ill feelings to start feeling brighter and happier all season long!
How to Beat the Winter Blues
- Eat a healthy diet.
While some foods, like candy and carbohydrates, provide temporary feelings of satisfaction and euphoria, they can also ultimately lead to anxiety and depression. Though it’s okay to indulge occasionally, you should focus on eating a balanced, whole foods diet. By providing your body with the nutrients it needs, you’ll have more energy and feel better about yourself. Plus, as the weather gets colder, you can reach for things like hearty soups and stews that often require less time in the kitchen, giving you more time to participate in activities you love!
- Get regular exercise.
While getting to the gym when it’s cold and dark might be more difficult, daily exercise is good for your body and your brain. Plus, committing to just 30 minutes five times a week can instantly lift your mood. Need a little inspiration? Grab a friend, coworker, or significant other to go with you. Try a new workout class or do yoga at the end of your workday. You’ll feel restored and energized and will even sleep better at night!
- Plan a vacation.
Longing for some vitamin D and sun therapy? You might start to feel happier as soon as you plan a vacation. The simple act of researching and having something to look forward to will likely boost your mood. Plus, getting away for a few days will help you feel invigorated, relaxed, and stress-free.
- Increase social interactions.
You might be more inclined to stay home when it’s cold outside, but social interaction is key to being happy and healthy. Be around family and friends to lift your spirits, especially as the holidays approach. Ask a friend to go to a movie or grab a cup of coffee with a coworker. Laugh more, worry less, and spend time with the people you love.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
Anxiety and stress are often associated with the winter blues. Since both are damaging to your health, incorporating things like yoga and meditation might be exactly what both your mind and body need. Try to relax, breathe, and find gratitude in the present moment.
Since we covered how important a healthy diet is for decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression, read on to learn about some of our favorite mood-boosting foods.
- Dark Chocolate
In a study done at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, researchers found that eating about an ounce of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in people who were highly stressed. Like elsewhere, everything in moderation, so be careful not to overdo it!
Did anyone ever tell you to eat a banana before exercising? Bananas supply the body with energy! Not only will you get potassium, B vitamins, and carbohydrates all in one piece of fruit, but you’ll stay full for longer. Whenever you’re craving a snack, reach for a banana!
Many of us already know how beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are to overall health, and an easy way to add it to the diet is by eating more salmon! Great for higher energy levels, optimal brain functioning, and circulation…need we say more?
A potent source of antioxidants, blueberries are one of our favorite fruits to consume during the winter months (and throughout the year!). Add them to smoothies and fruit salads or indulge in a piece of your favorite blueberry pie. Although blueberries aren’t on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, we still recommend buying organic.
From yogurt and kefir to kombucha and sauerkraut – there are many ways to enjoy your favorite probiotics. They’re good for digestive health and reducing stress. Enjoy a parfait for breakfast or add some fermented foods to your dinner plate.
While these are just a few ways to start feeling energized and less sluggish, it’s important to listen to your body. Some days you might need a few extra hours of sleep or a nice long bath to bounce back. Do what’s going to make you feel your best, and remember it’s okay to not feel like yourself 100% of the time.
Have you ever experienced the winter blues? If so, what did you do to feel better? Share in the comments below!
Are you interested in becoming an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach? Learn more today!