5 Ideas to Beat the Winter Blues!

In the winter, when the days are short and clouds hide the sun, it can be hard to stay upbeat. If you’re like many people, this time of year can be a challenge. In fact, approximately 20% of us feel the winter blues. However, you can take heart because there are some surprisingly simple things you can do to brighten your day.

  1. Get outside when the sun is shining. I know this isn’t easy when it is 15 degrees outside, but exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is a “feel good” hormone associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused. So, bundle up and take a short walk. There is something both exhilarating and energizing about getting out on a cold, but sunny, winter's day!
  2. Exercise (even if you don’t feel like it!). I am an exercise physiologist and it is a challenge even for me to get to the gym in the winter. During the spring, summer, and fall, I am highly motivated to jump on my bike or walk the dogs, but when the temperature drops below freezing, I want to bundle up by the fire and read a book. When you’re feeling this way, remember that exercise helps chronic depression and improves mood and sleep, so lace up your shoes and move your body!
  3. Eat a rainbow of plant-based foods. When I fill my plate with fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, I naturally feel better. I not only love looking at the beautiful colors, but also feel a sense of self-care. Add in the fact that this rainbow of colors provides a host of nutrients and this step becomes a no-brainer. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people eating a vegetarian diet reported more positive moods than meat eaters. The protective effects from the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables, as well as the lack of harmful effects from animal foods, combine to positively regulate mood.
  4. Stay social. Make an effort to get out of the house and be with people who bring you joy and make you smile. During these cold winter months, it is easy to hibernate, but it is more important than ever to reach out to friends and family. Start with something simple like picking up the phone to call a good friend or, better yet, have them over for a cup of tea. Not only will it lift your spirits, but it will lift theirs too!
  5. Buy fresh flowers. Buying flowers used to be considered a luxury, but today you can buy a beautiful bouquet for under $10 at any grocery store. In fact, I just purchased two hyacinth flowers in glass vases at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 each. Every time I enter my kitchen and see the hyacinths blooming, my spirits feel a little lighter. Rutgers University found that people reported feeling less depressed, anxious, and agitated after receiving flowers.

Remember, you don’t have to do every single one of these ideas; just choose one or two to try. See if they bring a little sunshine into your day and if so, make them a habit. Before you know it, spring will be here!