Written for Woodlot by Dr. Deanna Weiss, ND
As I write this, it’s pouring rain, there’s a foggy blanket in the sky, and everyone’s bundled up outside. It’s that time of year where some of us start feeling more sleepy, less motivated, and may be dealing with unexplained sadness. Some struggle with it to the point of getting the diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), while others notice a slight change after the days become noticeably shorter and colder.
To encourage getting out of bed on those dark mornings, I have put together a list of ways that may help. Here are 7 lifestyle tips to cope with the winter blues:
Switch a SAD lamp on for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up. This helps trick your brain into feeling more refreshed, as the light inhibits melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for balancing our sleep-wake cycle and causes that listless feeling of sleepiness. A regular sleep schedule is important for balancing our mood and energy, so try to stick to a consistent bedtime if you can.
Create a positive morning ritual to help get motivated for the day. This may include putting on your favourite upbeat music, lighting a palo santo stick to set a positive mindset, or drinking a delicious and nourishing tea.
Make sure you are eating well this time of year. That means cooking meals high in protein to help build the body's chemical messengers. These vital messengers are in charge of motivation (dopamine), energy (adrenaline), and self-worth (serotonin).
This is a great way to do something good for yourself, especially since you don’t have to do much at all! Beneficial treatments that may help beat the winter blues include: massage therapy, acupuncture, and infrared sauna. Twenty minutes in an infrared sauna can stimulate endorphins, and create an overall feeling of well-being.
Even when you don’t feel like it, stay connected. Making plans with a friend is a great motivator to get out of the house. Even a simple meet-up for coffee can help boost your mood.
Sign up for a new exercise class, or bundle up in your winter or rain gear, and get outside. If you are still not motivated to venture into the world, roll out your yoga mat and do some simple stretches on your floor at home.
Lastly, and most importantly, when feeling down or unmotivated, ask yourself: “What do I need to feel well today?” Your answers may include one of the tips listed above, or they may be something unique to you. Either way, listen to your body pay attention to your needs, and if you need external support, seek help from a friend or local health care professional.