Are you feeling blue? It’s common to feel low at this time of year, with around one in three Canadians experiencing the “winter blues.” Another 10 to 15 percent suffer from a mild form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression most common in the fall or winter.
According to researchers, SAD is triggered by changes in the amount of sunlight that can upset a person’s biological clock or disturb neurotransmitter (e.g. serotonin, dopamine) functions, ranging from sleep quality to metabolism.
If you’re feeling low this winter, consider these tips to help boost your mood:
1. Get as much sun as possible.
While the days are starting to get longer, it still gets dark quite early. Try to get out during the day and spend time in the sun as much as you can, connecting with nature. If that’s not possible, consider investing in a light therapy box, which mimics outdoor light.
2. Get some exercise.
It can be difficult to get moving when you’re feeling down, but exercise really does make us happier. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. You don’t need to have a specific fitness goal in mind; just get your body moving.
3. Eat food that nourishes your body.
Over the holidays, many of us consume too many foods that can make us feel low or lethargic. Make sure you’re getting your fruits, veggies, proteins, omega 3 (found in fish, nuts and seeds), dairy and other foods that boost your energy and make you feel good.
4. Do things you enjoy.
Schedule in some time to do the things you love, such as listening to or playing music, writing, reading, going to a comedy show and more. You’ll likely find that making time for these kinds of activities helps reduce your level of stress.
5. Try something new.
Pick up a new hobby to help stimulate your brain, such as a cooking or art class, knitting, or learning an instrument. Getting out of your regular routine and scheduling new things into your week can give you something to look forward to.
6. Get off social media.
Social media can give us the illusion of being more “connected,” but research shows it often actually makes people feel more isolated. Alternatively, regular face-to-face interactions can reduce someone’s risk of depression. Put down your phone and connect with friends and family in the real world. Schedule a coffee date with a friend, or consider joining a social group.
These six tips should help you combat the winter blues, and hopefully spring will be here before we know it. The key to staying well all year long? Do something every single day that nurtures your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Please note, there is a difference between feeling the winter blues and depression. Depression is a serious medical illness that may need more intensive treatment. If you are experiencing chronic low mood, and/or changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, ability to concentrate, low self-worth, hopelessness or suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate help from a medical professional or the Distress Centre at 403-266-HELP(4357).