How Real People Combat the Winter Blues
Are you feeling a shift in mood with the change of weather?
Winter has arrived in Australia and if the cold weather has you feeling lethargic and low you’re not alone. 1 in 300 Australians suffer from an extreme case of the winter blues called seasonal affective disorder (or the aptly abbreviated SAD). Most of us don’t struggle to this extent but we can find the colder months tough. Here are some tips from real people - our readers, listeners and members of the PP community - for combating the winter blues.
When it comes to the winter blues, refuse to be beaten by the weather! Neuroscientist, Sarah McKay, says “There’s never the wrong weather. Just the wrong clothes (a good attitude helps too).” The first line of defense to combat the winter blues is to become proactive and to deliberately (and energetically) look for things that will make you happy. Once you find them, engage! They will be your excuse to NOT crawl back under the covers and let the day pass you by.
You will always find reasons to stay in when it’s cold and dark outside. Why would anyone go out in miserable weather? Answer: To prevent feeling trapped indoors. Winter has a way of giving us cabin fever (remember The Shining?) Always have something to look forward to so that you can easily motivate yourself to get out of bed and out of the house. Be proactive. Keep a journal or a list of simple, fun things that get you up and moving. If you struggle with motivation, notice any unhelpful thoughts that are keeping you flat, commit them to paper, challenge them, get them out of your system and get going!
If exercise can alleviate depression, imagine what it can do for a mild case of the winter blues. If you’re lucky enough to sneak in outdoor exercise, even a brisk walk, do so. If due to weather constraints, you’re relegated to indoor activities, make it work by doing exercises that use body weight. If you have a treadmill, a stationary bike or an elliptical machine now is the time to pull them out of storage and put them to work.
Here’s a tip from Mel Schilling, TV psychologist, expert on Married At First Sight Australia, past podcast guest and expat Bali resident… “Move to Bali (sorry, couldn’t resist) Seriously, when I’m in the colder climates I find the best thing for mood-lifting is exercise ... rug up & go for a fast walk, pop into a gym or force yourself to jog rather than drive to your favourite cafe for a hot coffee or tea.”
Listen to happy music
Music affects our physiological, cognitive, social and emotional experience. If you’re feeling low, try listening to upbeat music to see if your mood changes from sad to swinging! We recently had psychologist, musician and researcher Dr Sandra Garrido on the podcast to talk about how to use music to boost your mood. Listen in for Sandra’s tips.
As the weather gets colder, the days get shorter. Some argue that the main cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is the impact of reduced light on our circadian rhythm. Here are some ways to get your dose of sunshine during these short, cold days.
If you have access to a light therapy box that mimics sunshine, you’re golden.
Try an alarm clock that simulates the dawn by giving off light that gradually increases in intensity. It’s a more gentle way to wake than a blaring bell or radio chatter.
Get outdoors. Bundle up and take an afternoon stroll. Better yet, take a stroll during your lunchtime break - noon is when the sun is brightest.
Open your windows and blinds and let the sunshine in. You need as much natural light as possible to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and keep your mood on the sunny-side. Be wherever it’s bright!
Keen to know more about light and your sleep-wake cycle? Listen to expert Dr Kate Sprecher as she explains it all on Sleeping Well with Dr Kate Sprecher.
Being kind to yourself is a must for getting past the winter blues. Our listeners, readers and friends were kind enough to share these tips:
Some advice from Canada: “Twinkle lights and lots of candles. And spending time outside then coming in and getting cozy with a warm drink.” - Jill
“Take a month off and head to a warmer climate. This year Thailand!” - Katrina
“Plant some winter herbs and/or vegetables, it gets you outside and keeps you active plus you get fresh ingredients for dinner jam-packed with nutrients and flavor.” - Kyrstie from A Fresh Legacy
Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to resist the temptation of your bed or a blanket on the lounge. There will be days when it is hard to resist slinking back under the covers where it’s warm. Prepare a nice breakfast. Listen to upbeat, happy music. Let the sunshine in. Diffuse something that reminds you of the beach (coconuts or citrus scents). Exercise. Think happy thoughts. Winter is here, let’s indulge and enjoy it.
Have you checked out the Positive Parenting Kit? It’s a little e-book packed with science-backed tips to stay positive as a parent and help your family to thrive. On sale now.