How to Fight Those Winter Blues

Picture of How to Fight Those Winter Blues
Image: Johannes Plenio
By Cynthia Dalton
To shorten winter, borrow some money due in spring. — W. J. Vogel

We Never Hear About The Summer Blues

Have you ever heard someone complain about the summer blues? Neither have we. But we sure do hear a lot of complaints from folks who find winter a downer. Of course, not everyone dislikes winter; there are plenty of people for whom winter is a welcome break after warm weather and a chance to indulge in winter activities and festivities. Usually, many people don't mind the shorter, cooler days up until New Year’s Day. After that, many people find waiting for the first warm days of spring to be dreary.

How to Beat Winter Blues

There are ways that we can, if not eliminate, at least mitigate the blues brought about by winter. Here are some tips:

  • Choose New Year resolutions carefully. Webster's dictionary defines "resolution" as a "fixed purpose or determination of mind." Avoid making half-hearted New Year resolutions you made because you thought you “should” make one. Be sure your resolution is something you are determined to accomplish. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment, which will just make a normally unpleasant winter even worse.
  • Find ways to pamper yourself. Even if it’s just buying yourself a special cream to sooth winter-chapped hands, indulge. A little self-administered TLC can do wonders for your mood.
  • Spend more time with happy, upbeat people. Misery may love company, but so does happiness. Choose to be with people who are happy, full of enthusiasm, and optimistic. Their good mood can be contagious.
  • Allow yourself to daydream. Your mind is powerful. It can take you on vacation even if you’re just sitting in your own living room. Imagine yourself in a warm tropical environment. It’s your daydream, so make it a good one. You might even want to consider creating a warm-weather vision board on your computer into which you copy and paste words and images that evoke your favorite months. You could even create a Pinterest board, a physical collage, or even hang pictures of your favorite warm-weather destinations.
  • Avoid the news. This may sound odd. Are we suggesting that you remain uninformed? Well, not quite. You always wind up hearing some news, even if you're just checking the weather forecast or traffic updates. However, you can minimize your exposure by filtering out upleasant news that you cannot affect. By its nature, bad news sells—view your news selectively.
  • Finish projects. You may have projects that you set aside during the warmer months when the lure of the outdoors won your attention. Conquer these projects while a chill is still in the air. A sense of accomplishment is a powerful mood booster.
  • Add more humor to your life. Mel Brooks once stated "Humor is just another defense against the universe." Since the winter blues are not as extensive as the universe, you can certainly use humor to spice up your otherwise dreary winter. The internet teems with more podcasts, comedy specials, and videos than one could watch in a lifetime. You can also create your own comedy station through a service such as Pandora, watch funny clips on YouTube, or view a comedy special on Netflix if you find yourself at a loss for entertainment.

Here are some additional tips:

In his article for The Guardian, Seven Ways … to Beat the ‘Winter Blues’ Without Medication, David Cox suggests:

  • Exercise. “Research has shown that even a 15-minute walk in the middle of the day is enough to increase crucial neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which help energize the brain and regulate circadian rhythms.” Exercising in natural daylight within two hours of waking up, creates even better results, according to Cox.
  • Get into the right mindset. Some of the bleakest and longest winters on earth are faced by Scandinavian nations, that “… embrace that much-discussed concept of hygge. The ethos is to embrace winter as a time to slow down, enjoy being at home, and spend time inside with friends and family.” In other words, they prime themselves to ‘go with the flow.’
  • Eat complex carbohydrates. “More complex carbohydrates, such as broccoli, spinach, courgettes [zucchini] and lentils take longer to digest, meaning they don’t cause the sudden spikes in blood sugar [of simple carbohydrates like sweets and white bread] that can play havoc with your mood [cause mood swings because blood sugar levels fluctuate rapidly].”
  • Take fish oil and vitamin D supplements. “Vitamin D plays a role in regulating mood, maintaining optimum blood sugar levels and boosting our immune systems, but one of the main natural sources of vitamin D is sunlight… One study found that when adults with the winter blues were given 400-800 international units of vitamin D3 a day, their mood improved substantially. Omega-3 supplements may also be beneficial.”
  • Meditate. “Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who first began researching the winter blues, is a firm believer of transcendental meditation as a means of treating the condition. Studies have suggested that by relaxing the body and mind through stimulating the release of the hormone melatonin, meditation can lead to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with happiness, and decreased activity in brain regions linked to stress.”
  • Try light therapy. “Research has shown that between 50% and 80% of people who get the winter blues can get either partial or complete relief from bright light therapy [using special ultraviolet-filtered light units, not regular light which may be harmful]… research suggests that lightboxes which are enriched in light towards the blue end of the spectrum are most beneficial. This is because blue light suppresses the hormones which make you fall asleep at night, enabling people to get their day started earlier and avoid depressogenic oversleeping.”
  • Take tryptophan supplements. The effectiveness of light therapy can be enhanced by combining it with a tryptophan supplement, an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin in our body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates happiness and mood …”

The common theme in all of these tips is to be proactive in making the changes necessary to lighten your mood. Taking charge of your emotions is mighty therapeutic. Doing specific things to change one’s own mood is certainly a better approach than just being miserable and just “getting through” winter with no coping strategies in place.

And, you could even get lucky and Punxsutawney Phil might predict an early spring!

Still Not Feeling Better?

If your mood is something more severe than just longing for warmer weather, you may have SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder). If you suspect this might be so, you may wish to read our article, Are you SAD? How to Deal With Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD may require the help of a trained professional.

What do you think?

  • Does winter get you down?
  • Do you tend to ‘hibernate’ in the winter?
  • What suggestions do you have for beating winter blues?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

Leave a comment!

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