I struggle against negative thought patterns and low moods at the best of times, and during the winter the effort certainly intensifies. Once the merriment of the holidays are over, winter seems to morph into darkness and gloom. The cold weather and snow, short daylight hours, and incessant fog and cloud cover (at least where I live) can feel downright oppressive. During the last couple years, I’ve found three strategies to combat these winter blues.
I’ve gone over the many benefits of exercise before, and mental and emotional well being is definitely one of them. The endorphins which are released during exercise decrease the feeling of pain and increase a positive feeling. This is part of why exercise has been scientifically shown to be an effective treatment for depression, stress, and anxiety. There are many mornings when I feel tired and sluggish, but I’ve made working out 6 days a week a priority, and I never regret it after I’m finished.
2. Get Outside
I find this one has the most drastic and immediate effect on my mood, and unfortunately is also the one I struggle the most to do. During the winter my mind and body just naturally want to huddle inside to hibernate. Even though I have to drag myself out the door, I always feel once I’m out, and the positivity continues even afterward. I try to take advantage of seasonal activities like skating, snowshoeing, and just walking through the deserted, snowy trails. Being in nature and getting fresh air always elevates my mood and energy levels. It’s even better when it’s sunny, but when that’s not an option, I can rely on this next strategy.
3. Light Therapy
Two winters ago I decided to purchase a Verilux Happy Light, and it has proven to be effective. Happy Lights and other light therapy devices are typically used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, nonseasonal depression, and some sleep disorders. A study has shown equal effectiveness to antidepressants while light therapy is considered safer and much less expensive. Patients also had faster results and less adverse side effects. The mood and energy enhancements and regulations of the body’s circadian rhythm can be gained by anyone though, with or without a diagnose-able condition.
And take comfort in knowing that spring will come again – only 57 more days.
Other topics I’ve covered in this series are:
–identifying and replacing unhelpful thinking styles
–3 minute breathing space
How do you keep your spirits up during the winter?