Happy 2017! I hope everyone had a healthy and happy new years celebration. I was going to write a post about making new years resolutions, but this year I decided to not make any new years resolutions. I decided not to try to make any specific goals for the next year for two reasons: 1. I think it's easier to work on short-term goals, without using the calendar year as motivation 2. Northeastern winters don't exactly scream "LET'S GET MOTIVATED!" to me. Instead, today I'm sharing some tips about improving your mood during these cold months. I decided to share some things that have helped me stay happy and sane during winter because I've noticed that every year I start to feel less like my usual upbeat self as soon as November/December rolls around. While I don't personally suffer from full-blown seasonal affective disorder (SAD, so aptly abbreviated), it's always a good idea to consult a mental health professional if you feel your mood going seriously sour during any time of the year. If you feel like you just need an extra happiness boost during the winter, here are some things that have helped me.
My Winter Mood-Improving Habits
- Get outside!
Unless you live close to the equator, your skin gets less exposure to sunlight during the winter (in the northern hemisphere). Sunlight is important because it's a major source of vitamin D. Vitamin D has effects on the hypothalamus which regulates sleep, hunger, and other factors that influence mood.
Another reason to get outside is just to enjoy the outdoors. Although being outside during the winter requires some extra layers, being amongst nature has so many benefits, both for the mind and body. Try going for a walk outside a few times a week (for the most benefits, aim for mid-day, especially when it's sunny out). If you're feeling more adventurous, go ice-skating, skiing, or snow-shoeing if you live in a snowy climate.
2. Eat (healthy) carbs!
Complex carbs can health boost serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that influences mood. I feel best when I stick to minimally processed whole grains and avoid white flour. Examples of complex carbs include sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains and 100% whole grain breads. Paying attention to portion size is important. It's easy to over-do pasta, bread, and rice, especially because these foods can be so comforting.
I love moving all year round! Exercise always puts me in a good mood. If you can't exercise outside, indoors is just as good. I try to exercise daily for 30-60 minutes, or at least most days. New to exercise? Try to find something that you enjoy and that you're willing to commit to. Walking, running, yoga, weightlifting all count.
4. Sleep, but not too much
It's so tempting to sleep more during the winter and go into "hibernation mode", but I've found that (for me) this makes me feel lazy which then affects my mood. Instead of staying in bed all day, try to get moving and accomplish one productive thing a day. Oversleeping can be a symptom of depression, so if you find yourself preferring to stay in bed for an excessive amount of time and you also feel symptoms of hopelessness and apathy, it's important to talk to someone.
5. Participate in life
Sometimes during winter, I feel like hibernating and going into my shell, but I've noticed that this makes me feel down and withdrawn. Find an engaging hobby that will keep your mind active. Social support is also vitally important, so make some time for friends and family.
These are just some simple things that have helped me. I hope you feel amazing today and every day of this winter season 🙂