Ward off Winter Blues

During the short, cold winter days, many people may be finding themselves feeling what is known as the “winter blues.” It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience feelings of sadness, fatigue, demotivation, or disruption to their sleep schedule during the overcast-filled winter season. For those with more prominent symptoms, it’s often diagnosed as a seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.  
In addition to seeking professional medical help, there are several healthy ways to fight against the winter blues. Here are some expert-approved ways to lift your spirits and help you feel happier and healthier all season long!  
1. Stay active  
Exercising is a powerful tool for fighting mild-to-moderate depression and SAD. Medical professionals claim that just 20 - 30 minutes of exercise per day can be as effective as prescribed antidepressant medication to decrease feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety. 
Start slowly and build up to 30 - 60 minutes per day. You can mix it up to include aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, strength training, and other activities that get you up and moving. Remember, any step is the right step towards starting healthy habits!  
2. Get outdoors  
It’s important to get outdoors whenever possible. Bundle up and go for a walk or take up a fun wintertime activity like skiing, hiking, ice skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing… whatever will motivate you to get outside.  
Regular natural sunlight can also boost your Vitamin D levels, a nutrient that is closely linked to better emotional health, balanced circadian rhythm, and sharper thinking. If you cannot get outside as much as you would like, try moving a chair, yoga mat, or workstation near a window that gets sunlight.  
3. Make time for self-care  
Managing stress and anxiety is a great way to feel physically and emotionally healthier. If possible, start establishing strong self-care habits early in the season or late fall before the blues sets in. 
You can pick up your favorite natural face mask and have an at-home spa day, initiate group outings or group chats, partake in community service, or even pick up a new hobby! Keeping the mind active and relaxed can fight off symptoms of winter blues. It also gives you something exciting to look forward to and concentrate on.  
5. Fuel your body  
Believe it or not, the foods you consume can considerably impact your mood. Consuming three meals per day that are filled with healthy fats, complex carbs, and lean proteins can help keep your blood sugars stable and prevent your glucose (and mindstate) from crashing. If you are craving some comfort foods that aren’t high in nutritional value - like macaroni and cheese, ice cream, or fried foods - try and counterbalance them with some healthier options as well, like a side salad, steamed veggies, or fresh fruit.  
5. Establish a healthy sleep routine  
Sleep has a huge impact on our overall mood and energy levels. If you are not getting adequate rest each night, your circadian rhythm can get disturbed, which also disrupts cortisol levels and hormone production.  
Try to set a routine bedtime and wake-up time each day. This will get your body into a healthy cycle that will help regulate other systems. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try to limit the amount of screen time you have before bed and use essential oils to help you relax and unwind. You may also want to talk with your doctor about starting a natural sleeping aid like melatonin.  
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