6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Whether or not you celebrate this season’s holiday festivities, it’s hard to escape the notion that, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Although winter is welcomed and anticipated, this can also be the most challenging time of the year. 

The change in temperature, cloudier skies, darker days, and even holidays bring about mixed feelings. We might feel sad, lonely, unmotivated, tired, and even depressed. Although these feelings might come from the challenges we continually deal with, it is also likely that seasonal changes impact our feelings of sadness and depression. Here are 6 simple ways to overcome the Winter Blues.

1. Exercising 

Walking, running, jogging, biking, lifting weights, yoga, playing with young children or pets! No matter what form it takes, exercise is an incredible way to improve our mood in the short and long-term. When you don’t have time to exercise, try to do some type of movement like dancing or light stretching. The “feel-good” chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) released during physical activity have the potential to improve our mood in as quick as 10-20 minutes.

2. Stimulating the Mind

Since we are spending more time inside, pick up a new hobby or revisit a nostalgic activity. Try breaking out a game you liked to play when you were younger or think about a family tradition that’s long overdue. Games like chess, dominos, go-fish, or Uno are a fun way to bring everyone together. Maybe you’ve been wanting to learn a new hobby, this is your moment! Whether it’s finally learning to knit, paint, skateboard, or make the perfect loaf of bread, it’s a fun way to get everyone involved. It’s easy to get sucked into tv, social media, and games on our phone. Incorporating a little adventure, especially with others, can engage our brains and boost our mood. 

3. Eating with your Mental Health in Mind

A nutritious diet is important when we want to feel more balanced. With less sunlight, we may be craving more Vitamin D-rich foods. Consuming “super-foods” rich in vitamins and minerals can provide extra energy. Super foods can be found in our everyday meals, including some holiday favorites. Some holiday-themed super-foods include: 

  • Pumpkin: Packed with vitamins A and K, fiber, and protein
  • Turkey: Lots of protein and B vitamins that regulate energy and mood. Tryptophan, is an added bonus as it is the feel good amino acid that encourages sleep, relaxation, and can even help serotonin production
  • Pomegranates: They’re full of antioxidants and even have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cranberries: Contain lots of vitamins C, E, and fiber
  • Green beans: Can help with glucose regulation and are high in fiber

4. Going into Nature

The beauty, calm, and health benefits! Research shows that a few minutes in nature can improve our mood, reduce our stress hormones, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and enhance our immune system functioning. It’s also a wonderful way to see beauty in places you’ve passed many times before. Going into nature doesn’t have to be a far away endeavor. Looking for hikes in your neighborhood or a park near you can provide a sense of connection to nature and the natural beauty that’s already in your community. 

5. Resting 

There is a difference between rest and sleep. Check in with your body right now, are your shoulders tense, your jaw clenched, or maybe your leg is shaking. These are all signs that we’re feeling stressed and we need rest. Practicing a consistent sleep routine is good for our health but resting can be done while we’re awake. Take physical and mental breaks throughout the day. You can do this by taking three deep breaths when you notice yourself becoming stressed. While resting, try a simple practice like saying things you are grateful for.

6. Seeking Support

There are always challenges in life, but adding that to seasonal changes, the holidays, and our current world’s state of affairs… it’s A LOT. This has been an especially challenging time to stay connected. Sometimes connecting with our close friends, family, or community is what we need to express ourselves and cope with life’s stressors. 

However, it’s okay and totally normal if you need professional support. Here are some resources that may be helpful to you and your family: 

  • Psychology Today can connect you to insurance-covered therapists   
  • NAMI San Diego Helpline: 1-800-523-5933
  • Live Chat San Diego County Mental Health Services: https://omnidigital.uhc.com/SDChat/ 
  • San Diego County Access and Crisis Line (available 24 hours a day): 1-888-724-7240
  • National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • Mending Matters provides mental health services at schools across San Diego County, contact us through referrals@mendingmatters.org 

And most importantly, remember to be compassionate with yourself. Try this affirmation: I am doing my best and my best is enough.

From Mending Matters to you, we hope you have a healthy, safe, and restorative winter!