As the seasons turn and the days get darker and shorter, it can really do a number on your mental state. If you’re like millions of other people, you may find yourself struggling with a low mood. There are a lot of reasons for this, and, fortunately, almost all of them are fixable. Here are 6 easy ways to keep your mood up and battle the winter blues:
It’s easy to stay active in summer. The sun’s out, temperatures are warm, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. In winter, keeping active can be a bit more of a challenge. Unfortunately, skipping exercise also means missing out on the endorphins you get from physical activity. You don’t have to bundle up and go for a jog every day to see a benefit, either — invest in an exercise bike or mat, download a fitness app, and do what you can from the comfort of your own home.
Soak Up the (Fake) Sun
Sunlight has a profound effect on our moods. Research has even shown that something as minor as living in an apartment that only has windows along one side can contribute to depression, since it limits the direction and amount of sunlight we receive. Since daylight hours are so short in winter, it can be difficult to get enough. If you work a 9-5 job, you may leave for work before the sun rises, and go home after it’s already set! That’s where daylight lamps and bulbs come in. Try replacing your regular lightbulbs with ones designed to mimic daylight, and pick up a light-therapy lamp. While it isn’t exactly the same as a full day of sunshine, they can help fill in the gaps in your sun exposure.
Reach for Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, because we produce it as a result of sun exposure. Without enough of it, we can feel tired, lethargic, and depressed. Unfortunately, 40% of people in the U.S. aren’t getting enough. Try adding a good quality vitamin D supplement to your daily regimen, or eat more foods that contain it. These include salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, egg yolk, mushrooms, or fortified foods like milk, cereal, or orange juice.
Eat More Lean Protein
Lean proteins are low-glycemic, so they won’t trigger the sugar highs-and-lows that can lead to irritability and fatigue. They’re also rich in amino acids, which can help improve your mood. Poultry, in particular, contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for mental health.
Winter comes with a lot of stress, between the darkness, holidays, bad weather, and cold and flu season. This stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which can negatively impact your sleep, metabolism, weight, and other facets of your physical and mental health. Poor sleep leads to more stress, and so on. Berries are rich in antioxidants, which can help mitigate some of the impact of stress on your brain and body. These antioxidants also help slow cortisol production.
Go for Folic Acid
Along with tryptophan, folic acid plays a role in serotonin production. While scientists aren’t exactly sure what this role is, they do know that folic acid has a beneficial effect on mood. Look for multivitamins that contain folic acid, or dedicated folic acid supplements. You should also include more natural sources of folic acid in your diet, like lentils, black-eyed peas, leafy greens, oatmeal, oranges, sunflower seeds, and fortified cereals.
Winter can be a tough season for anyone, but it doesn’t have to be. A significant portion of the winter blues stems from a lack of sunlight and activity, and there are easy ways to get around that. With a little extra exercise, some light therapy, and the right balance in your diet, you can give the winter blues the boot.