Feeling irritable and out of sorts, ready to hit the couch or slump at your computer by mid-afternoon? It could be a symptom of the season. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, as many as 15 percent of us experience minor winter depression because of shorter daylight hours and being indoors for longer periods of time.
A trip to the sun-soaked Caribbean or Hawaii likely will boost your happiness quotient – and keep you on track with nutrition and fitness to show off your confidence in a swimsuit around the pool. But if that's not an option, take a warrior approach to fighting off the winter blahs. Don't indulge the gloom and let the pounds pile on; commit to these blues-busting strategies and put them into action. Otherwise, belly bulge by bags of chips and Ho Hos awaits.
Tiredness comes with the juggling act of modern life. But napping may throw your body off its natural rhythm, so resist the impulse to couch-crash and take a quick walk instead. Research has shown that physical activity can improve your mood.
Perhaps your winter blues are more serious. The physical symptoms of minor depression are lethargy, sleeping too much, increased appetite with cravings for sugars and starches, and the resulting weight gain. Emotional indicators include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, irritability, and being stressed and anxious. Sound familiar? We all have emotional highs and lows, but experts advise a visit to your doctor if symptoms are having an impact on your work, family or social life – beyond the usual challenges of keeping on top of the housework and to-do list. Your doctor may be a bright light in your gray days.
Getting outdoors is one of the best ways to combat winter blues. Research shows that lack of vitamin D, which comes from exposure to the sun, is one cause of minor depression at this time of year. But how do you get a sunshine fix when you're heading to and from work in the dark? Ditch eating lunch at your desk and take a walk outside. You'll feel refreshed and be more productive for the rest of the day.
Try to embrace Old Man Winter by taking up a sport, such as calorie-blasting snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Or get bundled up and go for a brisk walk. Research shows that exercise boosts serotonin levels in the brain, the happy chemicals that make us feel good and lower feelings of anxiety. In addition to the exercise high, you'll also feel more accomplished with your self after you've covered miles of snow.
Think of things that warm your heart and make you smile. Surround yourself with beauty, such as plants, flowers, art and music. Treat yourself to a bouquet of flowers and display them prominently on your work desk or in your living room. Put on your favorite playlist and let the tunes lift your spirits.
Whether you live where winters are especially harsh or have an office job that keeps you from frolicking outside at will, let as much light as possible into your living spaces by keeping curtains open during the day and even installing another window or a skylight, if possible. Sun rays streaming in will brighten your mood.
Social ties are part of keeping healthy, so stay connected with friends and try out a new activity or revisit an old favorite. Another option is volunteering to help others; volunteering can chase the blues away because you will be bringing light into the lives of others.
The holiday season can exacerbate winter depression, so try to reduce stress and anxiety to keep you from taking it out on your wallet. Don't blow your gift and entertaining budget – facing the bills later is even more depressing – and simplify year-end celebrations by making warm and meaningful connections with people your focus.
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