Living in a colder climate during the winter, where the days are shorter and darker, can easily lead itself to some form of the winter blues or cabin fever. You might be feeling extra tired or sluggish, unmotivated, experiencing mood swings or just antsy and needing to get out of the house. This is a really common complaint and one that typically is easily remedied.
Here are 11 proven methods to boost your mood when the dreaded winter blues kick in:
1. Let There Be Light
Open up all of your curtains. Let as much light as possible into your home. Even if you feel like hibernating, adding more darkness to the already days will only dampen your mood further.
Take a note from your cat. Sit in the sunny spots in your house, soak in the warm and mood boosting potential of the sun. If it’s a dreary day, make sure you turn on a few lamps.
You can also check out light therapy lamps. These lamps plug in and emit a strong light. Sitting in their glow for as little as 30 minutes a day has been said to boost the mood.
2. Bring in Plants
Nature has a calming effect on the body. It can be difficult to get that same feeling when you don’t want to leave the house. Time to bring nature inside. If you don’t have a houseplant in your home, you need to get one. Having several houseplants throughout your house can be a source of life, when everything seems dead and dreary outside.
Bonus, plants help to clean the air of pollutants, molds, viruses and bacteria. This is especially great during the winter to ward of illness. Plants also act as a natural humidifier to keep your dry skin at bay and hair static free.
3. Use Citrus Scents
Citrus scents have been proven to increase feelings of happiness and decrease feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. It can even help increase your motivation and ability to focus.
Try lighting candles, diffusing essential oils, or using lotions or perfumes that include citrus scents like lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or bergamot for a quick pick me up. This is especially helpful right after getting out of bed in the morning or when you are needing to focus and get something done.
4. Listen to Nature Sounds
On the days when it is too cold to leave the house, find a youtube video and listen to nature sounds. Keep it playing in the background throughout the day and notice how much calmer and grounded you feel.
Listening to flowing water and birds chirping induces feelings of calm and even lowers your cortisol levels – the stress hormone that can wreck havoc on your body if not kept in check.
I get it, your motivation to exercise in the winter might tank, but we all know how good exercise is for your mind and body. Make exercise a priority. Exercise boosts those feel good endorphins and helps lift brain fog and improve your mood.
If you aren’t feeling like hitting it hard at the gym, consider more gentle exercises like yoga and walking. Even just stretching your muscles daily can be helpful
6. Watch Your Intake of Sugar, Alcohol and Caffeine
Dark mornings make an extra cup of coffee almost a necessity. Sweet carb-filled comfort food is all you might be craving and being cooped up in the house makes you want an extra drink. Unfortunately, when used in excess, sugar, alcohol and caffeine can all be major mood destroyers.
Check in and see how your body responds after bingeing on sugar or alcohol. Do you feel extra anxious or down? Might be time to cut back a bit and include more healthy choices.
7. Eat Filling & Grounding Foods
While your first instinct might be to load up on carbs, simple carbs like donuts, cakes, cookies etc. can really mess with your blood sugar levels. These may give you a temporary boost in mood, but it will inevitably lead to the dreaded sugar crash.
Significant spikes up and down in blood sugar can play a big part in your mood. The goal is to keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible. To achieve this, eat more complex carbs like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans and squash, soups and stews. Not only are these foods warm and nourishing to the body, but they also provide long lasting energy.
Also, try adding healthy fats to your diet like avocado, coconut, nut and seed butters. Fats keep you feeling full and stay satisfied longer.
8. Drink More Water
Water makes up the building blocks of our body. We are, after all, about 50% water. It is so important to make sure that you are properly hydrated during the winter months. You might not feel as thirsty as you would during the hot summer months, but you can get dehydrated even in the winter.
Adequate amounts of water improve mood and energy, lubricate joints, relieving aches and pains, and flush out toxins boosting the immune system, so you don’t get sick. If it is difficult to get as much water down in the winter, try warm water with lemon or herbal teas.
9. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked
If you’re getting your yearly physical done soon, you might want to ask the doc to test your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D plays a vital role in our health, from your hormones to your mood. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to depression.
In the colder parts of the world, we aren’t able to get vitamin D from the sun during the winter, so our levels can drop. With your doctor’s ok, consider supplementing with Vitamin D capsules to make up for the loss of sun.
10. Start a Gratitude Journal
Having a gratitude practice has been proven to boost your feelings of happiness and joy. It can be especially difficult to acknowledge what is going well in your life when you feel a slump in your mood. I have seen huge benefits in my own life by adding a gratitude practice to my daily routine.
Start keeping track of 3 things each day that went well or 3 things you are grateful for. Over time, this will help retrain your brain to focus more on the positive. It’s very important that you do this even on days when it seems like nothing is going well.
“Where attention goes, energy flows,” meaning the more positive and uplifting your thoughts, the more positive things you will start to notice and experience in your life.
11. Plan a Trip
When all else fails, sometimes you just need to get away. If you can make plans to vacay somewhere warm, all the better. But, this works even if you are just leaving town for the day. It helps to break up the monotony of your daily routine.
The anticipation and excitement of the trip can linger for days and even weeks. Once you get back, recalling memories you made or looking at photos can bring back those pleasant feelings.
Is taking a trip just not possible right now? Good news, you still will get a boost in mood just by planning a trip, even if you don’t end up taking it for awhile.
When the Winter Blues Turn into Something More
What happens if your winter blues linger for several weeks or even months? Do your symptoms seem to be getting worse over time? You might be suffering from something more serious like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Depression. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Always tired no matter how much sleep you get
- Oversleep or can’t sleep
- Overeat or have no appetite
- Gain significant amounts of weight or lose weight
- Have difficulty completing simple daily tasks like getting out of bed or showering
- Have no interest in the activities you used to enjoy
- Isolating yourself from family or friends
- Feeling numb
- Suicidal thoughts/Suicide attempts
If this is the case for you, please reach out to a qualified professional like a therapist or doctor for help. No one should have to suffer through this alone.