Therapists Share the 9 Most Effective Ways to Fight the Winter Blues
Don't let the darker days get you down. Follow this mood-lifting advice from professionals.
If you're not feeling the holiday spirit this year, you're hardly alone. While the colder months come with a lot to celebrate, many of us still end up feeling down during this time. The darker days can have negative effect on your mental health, leading you to feel sadder and gloomier in the winter than you do in the summer. But there are ways to take control of your mood during the shifting seasons. Read on to discover the nine most effective ways to fight the winter blues, according to therapists.
Try starting a new hobby.
Giving your mind something else to focus on other than the dark and dreary days could be all you need to get through the winter.
"If you have always wanted to learn to crochet, or to take Spanish lessons—now is the time," Kaytee Gillis, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist working with Choosing Therapy, says.
According to Gillis, starting a new hobby or skill by enrolling in a class or watching videos online can have a positive affect on your mental health.
"This will engage your brain in ways that will increase serotonin and other feel-good chemicals which will help to boost mood," she explains.
Don't skip out on socializing.
While you may be tempted to spend more time holed up inside your room when it's cold out, this could be a major contributing factor to your winter blues. That's why still making time to socialize is so important right now, according to Miami-based neuropsychologist Aldrich Chan, PsyD.
"Social interaction is crucial for mental well-being," Chan notes. "So don't forget to spend time with friends and family, join social groups or clubs, and participate in activities that bring you joy."
Seek out the sunlight.
The sun sets so much earlier during the winter, but it's still necessary to get at least a little bit of sunlight every day, according to Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, licensed therapist working with Just Answer.
"While you might not get the needed vitamin D from the winter sun, the feel of the sun on your face may provide an uplifting feeling," she shares.
In fact "lack of sunlight is a common trigger for winter blues," Chan says. So if you aren't getting enough from the actual sun during this time, you may want to try light therapy.
"This involves exposure to a bright light that mimics natural sunlight and can help regulate your mood," he explains.
Take the time to make plans.
Sometimes simply having something concrete to look forward to during the winter "can lift your spirits," according to Chan.
"Plan a ski trip vacation, sign up for a class or workshop, or make arrangements to spend time with a friend," he suggests.
You can even consider saving up and planning a getaway to a warmer place, Kelman adds.
"Any vacation is restorative, but nothing is better than a respite from the cold to be on an island to combat the winter blues," she says. "Plan something for January or February so there is something to look forward to when fall rolls in and when you return from the trip, spring is right around the corner."
Remember to keep to a routine.
Don't underestimate how much your regular routine can help you feel more relaxed during the wintertime.
"When it is dark and dreary outside, it is easy to just stay in bed or on the couch all day," Gillis warns. "But, as difficult as it is, try to stick to a routine."
This may include things like getting up on time, going to bed on time, and keeping up with your chores around the house, according to the psychotherapist.
"It will help your mind stay on task and help with motivation and mood," she assures.
Take walks throughout the day.
Physical activity is important for your overall health at any point in the year. But during the winter, it can play a huge part in helping you get necessary sunlight every day and improving your mental health.
"Take a few brisk walks throughout the day," Kelman advises. "If you go to work and come home in the dark, then try to get out during your lunch break for a brisk walk. Turn your face to the sun and breathe in the crisp air."
Make sure you're still eating well.
It's natural to feel like all you want to do is curl up on your couch and eat comfort food as you wait out the winter. But a bad diet this time of year can contribute to you feeling more down than you usually do.
"On the other hand, eating a balanced and nutritious diet can positively impact your mood," Chan points out. He recommends people "avoid excessive consumption of sugary and processed foods."
Decrease screen time.
You may be more tempted to pick up your phone or turn on the TV when you're staying inside and out of the cold. But Gillis tells Best Life that it's better for people to decrease their screen time during the winter, as it has been shown to "affect mood in a negative way, because we are looking at other people having a good time while we are inside, feeling sad."
Instead, Gillis recommends reading a book. If you do want to watch something, put on a show or movie that takes place in the summer.
"Just seeing the sunshine and warmth can help increase your mood," she shares.
Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be helpful wellness tools at any time of the year. But they are "particularly effective in managing the symptoms of the winter blues," according to Chan.
"Consider trying meditation, deep breathing, and yoga," he says. "All of these can help reduce stress and improve overall mental health."
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