As winter settles in, it’s no surprise that many of us find ourselves feeling a bit down and sluggish. The colder temperatures and shorter days have a way of putting a damper on our spirits. We often refer to this state of mind as “the winter blues,” a common seasonal funk that can temporarily affect our overall wellbeing, leaving us with low energy and a less-than-cheerful mood. In more serious cases, this can even develop into a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
But here’s the interesting part: it’s not just a passing trend or a figment of our imagination. The winter blues are rooted in science, and understanding this can help us tackle them more effectively. In fact, there are practical steps we can take to counteract the winter blues and boost our spirits. Let’s delve into the science behind it and explore strategies to brighten our winter days.
Why do we get the Winter Blues?
The winter blues has a scientific explanation rooted in the interplay between our biology and the seasonal changes. Understanding these factors allows us to better comprehend why we experience the winter blues and empowers us to take proactive steps to mitigate its effects.
Reduced sunlight exposure plays perhaps the most significant role in triggering the winter blues. With shorter daylight hours, our exposure to natural light decreases, disrupting our body’s internal clock, reducing all-important vitamin D exposure, and therefore leading to imbalances in hormones like melatonin and serotonin, which are key players in sleep and mood. Additionally, the colder temperatures and inclement weather often result in a tendency to stay indoors, reducing our engagement in outdoor activities that provide social, physical and mental stimulation. All of which are important for our wellbeing! This combination of reduced sunlight and decreased outdoor activity results in a third culprit – disrupted circadian rhythms! Impacting our sleep patterns, energy levels, and mood regulation.
Strategies to Reduce the Winter Blues
1. Increase sunlight exposure 🌅🌤️
Make an effort to spend time outdoors during daylight hours, even on cloudy days.
Open curtains and blinds to let natural light into your living or working space.
2. Stay physically active 🏃🏽♀️🏋️♂️
Engaging in regular exercise releases endorphins, which can boost mood and energy levels. Not to mention it often gets us out of the house and even socialising!
3. Maintain a balanced diet 🥗🥑
This is always important, but even more so in winter time.
Make sure to include a variety of nutrient dense foods in your diet!
Fruits, vegetables, grains and healthy fats.
4. Practice self-care 📖💆🏻♀️
Winter can be a fantastic time for self-care activities.
Reading your favourite book, taking a hot bath, meditation.
Ask yourself what your favourite winter activities are and make an effort to engage in them regularly
5. Stay social 👫☕️
We tend to isolate ourselves during the winter time, which only adds to the blues!
Make an effort to keep engaging in social activities, whether that’s winter sports or coffee dates.
It will make all the difference!
The next time you engage in a conversation with someone who is feeling a bit down, offer them the reassurance that the winter blues are a real phenomenon! While we cannot control the shorter days and often gloomy weather, it’s empowering to recognise that there are proactive steps we can take to alleviate the impact.
From as little as opening the curtains to let in natural light, to as grand as embarking on a refreshing hike above the clouds, we encourage you to challenge the winter blues!
Author: Tessa Nielsen Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Content Creator at Specialised Health
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