Top Tips for How to Overcome the Winter Blues
Like it or not, winter is here. For some people, this season is filled with enjoyable things, like: crisper air, snowy vistas and winter sports. But for others, the colder months represent a downturn in mood and energy that leaves them feeling sad, lethargic, and fatigued. Some refer to this as the “winter blues.”
There are several reasons why a change in seasons can negatively affect a person’s thoughts and feelings. Due to colder temperatures and inclement weather, the tendency for many people is to stay inside where it’s warm and hunker down for the winter.
Spending more time indoors can create physiological changes in the brain, which can have a significant impact on attitude and outlook. Also, getting insufficient sunlight can trigger the winter blues.
Signs of Winter Blues
Many people deal with low mood during the winter months. Whether initiated by the demands of work, relationship challenges or excessive stress, anxious or depressive thoughts can come on without warning. Low mood can contribute to adverse physical consequences and can also lead to possible mental health concerns.
The signs of winter blues may include:
- Negative or guilty thoughts
- Mental fogginess
- Purposefully avoiding social interaction
- Overeating and emotional eating
- Periods of low appetite
- Difficulty with concentration and memory
Since many people dismiss these issues as just feeling down, they may not get the help they need, which can result in serious mental or emotional difficulties.
A variety of things can affect your mood, but one reason why a change in seasons can cause negative mood is lack of nutrients:
The human brain naturally produces a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin plays many important roles in the brain’s functioning and is involved in maintaining quality sleep, positive mood, self-confidence, and even healthy appetite and social engagement. The winter months tend to keep people indoors, which can lead to weight gain, low energy, negative mood and a falloff in serotonin brain activity. As the neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mood, a serotonin activity decrease is often linked with an increase in depressive thoughts and feelings.
Fluctuations in Melatonin
Changing seasons can affect your mood and sleep. Melatonin can help your body adapt to these changes. When sudden drops in this hormone occur, mood and sleep can get out of sync, causing either increased sleep, low mood or mood swings. Taking melatonin can help promote positive mood and maintain normal sleep cycles. If your normal melatonin production is off, a supplement with melatonin may help you feel more balanced.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Getting necessary amounts of vitamin D can be particularly challenging during the winter season when there are fewer hours of sunlight and when the sun itself is less intense. However, failure to make or absorb enough vitamin D can lead to health problems and other mental and physical difficulties. The lower your vitamin D levels, the more likely you’ll be to feel blue rather than happy. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher incidences of stress, anxious thoughts and mood issues.
There are many ways you can naturally improve your outlook and help alleviate the issues that come with low mood. Here are just a few…
6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
- Stay Connected
Social connections are incredibly important to your overall well-being. Since the health habits of the people you spend time with can have a dramatic impact on your own health, surround yourself with people who are happy, upbeat, and kind. Also, for personal growth, you need people in your life who will push, teach, and guide you. Spending time in a community of like-minded people is a wonderful way to boost your bliss hormones, such as oxytocin. Focusing your energy on positive people can affect your everyday life and longevity.
- Supplemental 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 find it challenging to get enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a light box or vitamin D lamp for your home or work desk. These alternate light sources simulate noontime sunshine without the UV rays that cause skin cancers. Be sure to purchase a light box that’s proven to increase vitamin D levels, features several different settings to prevent eyestrain and is as close to the natural sunlight spectrum as possible.
- Good Mood Foods
Since your brain uses more than 20% of your body’s total energy, it requires high-quality food with specific vitamins and nutrients to use as fuel throughout the day. What you eat can greatly affect your brain’s overall performance. Making healthier choices in your diet will not only help control your waistline, it can also help lift your mood and provide a long-lasting increase in energy and focus. Add a variety of mood-boosting foods to your next grocery list.
- Take a Trip
If getting enough UVA (ultraviolet A) rays from the sun proves difficult during the winter months, especially for those who live in the northern half of the U.S., consider saving up some money during the summer for a vacation to a sunny destination (the Caribbean, for instance) during the winter. This will make enduring the cold, dark months more bearable, and boost your vitamin D levels.
- Pamper Yourself
If you typically feel down or get stressed out during the winter months, look for ways to pamper yourself. Getting a massage can do more than just improve your physical function. Clinical studies indicate that a massage is beneficial for improving mood and coping with stress. Massages can help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the activity of such neurotransmitters as dopamine and serotonin.
- Get Dietary Supplement Support
Whether you find yourself having negative 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 ingredients that can help you feel calm, content, and able to manage stress or mental strain.
Adopting these healthy habits can help improve your mood during the winter months.
For more information about our brain healthy supplements, please 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.”