Let’s face it: winter is hard. It’s cold, dreary, tiring and gets dark by 4:30 p.m. — not exactly doing our happiness any favors. In fact, according to Mental Health America, “In a given year, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression,” adding that “four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women.” Whether you or someone you know is affected by seasonal affective disorder, or you just feel yourself suffering from some winter blues, here are a few tips and tricks to brighten up those cold days.
1. Don’t stop exercising just because it’s cold.
Although it might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re cold and tired, getting your blood flowing and lungs pumping is one of the most effective ways to brighten your mood. I’ve found that during the winter months, there’s nothing I love more than Zumba or getting a good run in on the treadmill to my favorite pump-up music. Exercise actually increases your serotonin levels, which tend to get low when you have the winter blues.
2. Cozy up your room.
Hang up some string lights and artwork, add more photos to your walls of friends and family, buy some fun, bright new pillows — change your sterile-looking dorm room into something personalized and inviting. Making it a fun and comforting place to be when the outside world is gloomy is a great way to keep your spirits high.
3. Eat right.
Eating healthy is essential during these months because it’ll make you feel good both inside and out. We all know that the season of eating begins the cycle of: eat poorly, gain weight, get upset that you gained weight and, in turn, not feel like exercising. Fruits, veggies, mood-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, protein, and anything high in vitamins and antioxidants are key in boosting both your metabolism and mood in these months. Holiday treats are great, but eating them in excess will only leave you feeling sluggish and blue.
4. Take your vitamins.
Take a multivitamin containing vitamin D-3 daily. Vitamin D is created by the sun’s rays on the skin, which of course decreases during the winter months when the sun is less prominent. Vitamin D has been proven to help regulate mood, and when your body lacks it you’re more likely to feel less lively than usual.
5. Consider buying a sun lamp.
Many people who suffer from seasonal depression invest in a sun lamp, which stimulates the sun’s natural rays and emits 2,500 to 10,000 lux. The lamps work by reducing the release of melatonin in the brain and instead increase the levels of serotonin to improve your mood. For best results, you should use your sun lamp daily and for about 30 minutes to two hours at a time. Many people will see improvement in their mood in about as little as two weeks!
6. Spend time with friends and family.
With the days getting shorter, colder and darker, you may want to simply go home after a long day and sleep. Being around your friends and family, however, is another key way to lift your mood and keep you happy! Go out to dinner with friends, see a movie, have a coffee date, a girl’s night — anything to keep you surrounded by people so your mood improves through some laughter, chatter and gossip.