This has been a tough couple of weeks on the weather front.
Things went from “pleasantly wintery” to “ridiculously frightening” last week, resulting in snow days and cancellations here in Toronto.
Three snow days in 3 weeks – yikes!
The Polar Vortex hit Canada and the US Midwest and we were facing -35 degree Celsius (-30 Fahrenheit).
Although I enjoy skiing and skating, I’m generally a summer person.
The extreme weather certainly didn’t help my mood.
Around this time of year, many people in the Northern Hemisphere start to struggle a bit.
We’re just over a week past the day labelled “Blue Monday”, supposedly the saddest day of the year.
Blue Monday is a hoax made up by a PR firm in 2005.
There’s an interesting VIDEO that explains how it came about and why it’s BS.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t think that this tine of year sucks.
We did recently pass February 2, the halfway point between the Winter Solistice and the Spring Equinox…otherwise known as Groundhog Day.
Right in the thick of winter!
There’s no denying that this season can be tough on many people in the Northern Hemisphere.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) involves major depressive episodes on an annual basis and treatments include light (phototherapy) or medications and psychological therapy.
Many of us experience a milder form of the “Winter Blues”, which involves bad moods, irritability, fatigue, poor sleep, and carb cravings.
While you may want to crawl back under the covers and hope it will go away, you probably have some things you need to do.
So somehow you must soldier on.
Here Are 6 Tips For Coping With The Winter Blues:
1) Exercise Daily
Your usual weight training workouts 2-5 days a week are your foundation.
While a gym session is great, it doesn’t make up from hours spent at your desk.
It’s important to keep moving as much as you can.
Exercise helps you cope with stress and reduces your risk of depression.
Something as simple as daily walking can make a big difference to your mood.
While I don’t tend to give my Online Coaching clients much (if any) cardio in their weekly workout plans, I do encourage regular daily movement.
It’s a great way to keep your motivation for weight training strong.
An object in motion tends to stay in motion.
2) Get Some Light
The main problem with winter is that there isn’t as much sun and it isn’t as strong as it is during other seasons.
Light therapy, which involves looking at a light box for 30-60 minutes a day, is used clinically to treat SAD.
Ideally, you would get outside for some exercise most days, but it’s not always possible in the winter.
One of the positives of the frigid -30 days we recently experienced was that there was often sunlight despite the cold.
Sitting by a window for short periods during the day can be a great way to give yourself a rest from your computer screen.
It can also help you fight your low mood.
3) Add Healthy Fats
While you’re probably craving carbs to raise your serotonin (feel-good hormones), it’s fats that your body probably needs.
Omega 3 fats particularly, have been shown to improve mood.
You can get them from fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) or nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds).
Fats also help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Vitamin D is particularly important, because it’s produced when the sun shines on your skin…something that rarely happens in winter.
It’s responsible for keeping your immune system functioning well.
And we all know that getting sick is a big downer!
Food sources of Vitamin D include egg yolks, dairy products, beef liver, and fatty fish.
4) Pump Up The Tunes
Music has been shown to be an effect therapy for depression in various populations.
You can certainly work on playing an instrument, if that’s your thing, but it’s easy enough to just listen to your favourite tunes.
Spotify even has playlists called “Happy Times” or just “Happy Music”.
Even better, come up with a playlist of your favourite happy music to pick you up when you’re lacking pep.
You can even get up and dance around for a few minutes at home, adding the mood-enhancing benefits of exercise to the mix.
Family kitchen dance party, anyone?
I love listening to steel pan, soca, reggae or Latin music when I’m feeling a bit down in the winter.
It makes me think of warm summer days and picturesque beaches.
5) Eat Chocolate
Although the research is mixed, chocolate has shown some evidence of being able to improve mood.
This is not free rein to eat bar after bar of chocolate, but you might enjoy a few reasonable portions each week.
Certainly the more you enjoy chocolate, the better it’s likely to work.
I personally love chocolate and a few pieces on a dreary day do have a positive impact on me.
For optimal health benefits, make sure you chose the right kind of chocolate.
6) Plan A Vacation
It’s not always possible, but planning a winter vacation can be a great way to get through the winter.
An interesting study showed that the anticipation of a vacation can help increase happiness.
In this case, the vacationers happiness wasn’t greater than non-vacationers after the holiday unless it was a very relaxing trip.
If you can’t get away, plan a fun event a few weeks from now (like a day trip or a course) that you can look forward to.
It might just be enough to get you through the winter.
I know winter can be tough for some people (yes, I’m one of them!).
Do what you can to stay moving and be productive when the weather’s not to your liking.
We’ll be through this before we know it.