Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Winter
Winter is finally here! For many, this season is associated with happy things like crisp weather, warm beverages, and dazzling light displays. But for others, the weather change and shorter days signal a downturn in mood and energy that leaves them feeling sad, lethargic, and fatigued.
There are several reasons why a change in seasons can negatively affect a person’s thoughts and feelings. Spending more time indoors can trigger physiological changes in the brain, which can have a significant impact on attitude and outlook. Also, less sunlight may cause a decrease in serotonin, which can trigger low mood.
Seasonal Low Mood
Many people deal with low mood during the winter months or holiday season. Whether brought on by unrealistic expectations, excessive stress or family drama, anxious or depressive thoughts can come on without warning. Low mood can lead to possible mental health concerns. It can also contribute to adverse physical consequences.
Symptoms of seasonal low mood can include:
- Negative or guilty thoughts
- Mental fogginess
- Purposefully avoiding social interaction
- Overeating and emotionally eating
- Periods of starving and bingeing
- Difficulty with concentration and memory
Since many people dismiss these symptoms as just feeling down, they may not get the help they need, which can result in serious mental or emotional difficulties.
The good news is that there are numerous natural ways to support your mental health and reduce the symptoms that come with winter blues. To promote full brain and body wellness, here are 10 healthy strategies for boosting your mood this holiday season:
Alternate Light Source
Daily exposure to appropriate levels (even just 10 to 30 minutes a day) of direct sunlight can boost vitamin D3 levels, which can help improve your mood. If you have a hard time getting enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a vitamin D lamp for your home or work desk. Though many artificial light boxes claim to do the job, make sure to purchase one that’s as close as possible to the natural sunlight spectrum and proven to increase vitamin D levels.
Whenever you feel angry, moody or stressed, take a deep breath, hold it for one or two seconds, then slowly exhale for about five seconds. Do this about 10 times and you will start to feel more relaxed. It sounds so simple, but breathing is essential to life. It’s much easier to achieve a balanced mood when you slow down and become more efficient with your breathing.
Healthy Pleasure Centers
Deep inside your brain, your pleasure centers respond to several neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine. When your dopamine pathways aren’t working well, negative thoughts and low motivation are much more common – it can be harder to find your sense of joy and lift yourself out of a funk. Increase dopamine naturally by engaging in meaningful and beneficial activities on a regular basis. Do work that you enjoy and take time to have fun with your loved ones. It’s equally important to avoid wearing out your pleasure centers with substance abuse, gambling, video games, and compulsive eating or shopping.
Find Support in Community
Having a strong community means that support is just a phone call, email or visit away. Spending time in a positive community of like-minded people is a wonderful way to boost your bliss hormones, such as oxytocin. To improve your mental and emotional fitness, focus your energy on people who are positive and engage in healthy habits.
Get Your Rest
Many people sacrifice quality sleep to keep up with the increased demands of the stressful holiday season. Lack of sleep often leads to illness, which makes it that much harder to accomplish everything on your to-do list. To ensure that you have the energy you need to get the most out of the holiday season, it’s recommended that you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Remember Happy Times
If it’s been a while since you worked on a scrapbook or photo album, the holidays are the perfect time to preserve your memories (especially if the weather isn’t so nice). Also, editing, archiving and watching old family videos can serve the double purpose of providing hours of enjoyment working on a project while also reminding you of some of the happier moments in your life.
Burn Some Calories
Physical exercise is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to keep your brain healthy. Exercise increases levels of dopamine and can boost blood flow to deliver oxygen and other positive nutrients to the brain. It also increases a growth factor called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which helps generate new brain cells and can assist the brain in self-regulating mood, attitude, and focus. To maintain an even mood and a sense of mind-body balance, establish a daily exercise routine that works for you and stick to it.
Write it Down
One of the best ways to remain grateful is to write down the positive things that have taken place that day. Keeping a journal can be an enjoyable hobby as well as a great way to unwind after a stressful day. One of the biggest benefits of journaling is when you look back at earlier entries and see the many blessings you’ve enjoyed in your life. Jot down three things that you’re grateful for every day. Then, experience the bliss that gratitude can bring.
Reach Out for Help
Though isolating yourself during tough times may feel like the safest option, closing yourself off from the world can aggravate your feelings of negativity. Resist the urge to shut out the individuals who can offer you encouragement and support. Let friends and family know when you’re emotionally overwhelmed. Seek professional help if necessary, but don’t fight your battles alone.
Get Nutritional Support
Whether you find yourself having negative or anxious thoughts, or if you feel that your stress levels have nearly reached the breaking point, BrainMD offers a range of powerful supplements for mood and stress that can help turn your day around. These brain-directed supplements have been formulated with the highest quality nutrients and ingredients that can help you feel calm, content, and able to manage stress or mental strain.
Adopting these brain healthy habits can help to improve your mental and emotional well-being during the holiday season.
For more information about our full catalog of brain healthy supplements, visit the online store at BrainMD.
Keith is grateful to have the opportunity to write about supplements since many of them have made a dramatic difference in his life. He is often heard around the office saying, “We have supplements for that.”