While there are parts of winter I love… electric blankets, winter clothes and winter food, but I’m not really not that fond of what makes actually winter. It’s the cold, I’m more of a hot house flower as my Nana would say, I’m not lover of cool temperatures and I most definitely suffer from the Winter Blues.
The Winter Blues are actually a thing. As the days get shorter and nights get colder some of us tend to suffer from low energy, mild depression and the desire to hibernate until the warmer temperatures return. Severe Winter Blues is also actually a thing, a very real thing, known technically as Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D), which for sufferers obviousyly occurs every year at the same time… winter.
The exact cause of S.A.D isn’t really known, but many people believe the seasonally depression is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight, as sunlight can affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones. Lack of sunlight is thought to affect the production of mood hormones melatonin and serotonin. Serotonin is a feel good brain chemical and low levels have been linked to mood, stress, anxiety and poor sleeping patterns because serotonin can also be converted into melatonin in the brain; and melatonin the all important brain chemical for healthy sleeping patterns.
Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D; and that it helps improve our mood. In winter the days are shorter, darker and of course much much colder, and because of this we tend spend less time outdoors. A lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed—without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outside during winter even if you have to wrap up warm to do so.
Don’t let the colder weather leave you housebound. Watch for a gap in the rain showers and zip outside for a quick dose of fresh air and Vitamin D.
Exercise unfortunately seems to almost always be the answer. Exercise as you probably know is ideal for relieving the stress, and the high from exercising can last for hours. If you can drag yourself out of bed to exercise in the morning, it will leave you with more energy for the rest of the day, believe me, I understand the pain and agony of facing the gym first thing in the morning. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those magical “feel good chemicals” that improve your mood. So grab yourself a wooly hat, some thermals and get moving.
Stick to your Resolutions
It seems obvious, but healthy behaviours like the ones we often resolve to stick to at New Years, are of course linked to having fewer “blue” days. Those who make a concerted effort to exercise and eat better (and not smoke etc.) generally have fewer depressed days than those less healthy people. If you’re like me, as the year drags on those brilliant plans you made around December 31st are possibly starting to wane. Refocusing on your goals will give you that all important sense of purpose and achievement. There’s no reason you can’t try again, the start of a new season is a good time to get into a new routine.
Avoid Binge Drinking
It may seem like the only option in winter is to stay indoors with a nice glass of wine or two or three, but it’s common knowledge that alcohol is a depressant, and rather than lifting your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoid alcohol when you are already feeling blue.
Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking if you’re feeling blue isn’t a healthy choice and can leave you feeling sick, depressed, and that won’t help with the points above. Especially in winter, binge drinking will actually leave you feeling even more tired later which will have a knock on affect and potentially make a blue mood even worse.
Don’t lock yourself away, and scuttle between work and home just because the weather isn’t great. Make plans for the winter season and make sure you’ve got something to look forward too. Knowing you won’t be stuck at home for weekends on end will be a comforting thought. Never under estimate the power of catching up with good friends and family.
Staying social and having something to look forward to doesn’t necessarily mean a big holiday to warmer climates, a movie date or dinner with friends can be enough to break the monotony of winter.
Work, family, friends, appointments, meetings and household chores, we’re all busy people and even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some down time. Don’t be afraid to say “No”. Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early or maybe try meditation or yoga. Discover what you find relaxing and make time for it.
Relaxation, especially in the form of something like yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking will definitely help keep depression and winter blues at bay.
Embrace the Season
Instead of always avoiding the cold find ways to embrace the winter season and look for the best and beauty it has to offer! If sports your thing try taking up a winter sport! Or appreciate winter for it’s unique beauty and take up photography. Enjoy winter opportunities while they last—after all, they’re only here a few months per year.
We’ve kept an eye on Air New Zealand grab seat and planned some weekend trips away, last week we hit Christchurch, which was amazing and great little get away. In August we’re headed to Wellington for Beervana and spring we’re headed to Dunedin for a weekend.
You don’t necessarily need to jump on a plan, or even leave town. There’s plenty of exploring to be done in your own area, cafes you haven’t tried, old friends you haven’t seen, random pubs with pool tables and op-shop to rummage through. Staying active will increase your energy and seeing winter in a positive light, (with all the great activities on offer) will keep your spirits high.