Although the official first day of spring is tomorrow (March 20th), living in Northern Ontario we are well aware that whether we like it or not, winter typically does not stick to a schedule.
It is no secret that winter is cold, dark and snowy. It is often a chance for people to hibernate, stay in and wait for warmer weather. However, intentionally making an effort to engage in healthy leisure activities and practicing positive self-care can help you enjoy winter and can also help boost your mood during these dreary months.
It is common that individuals notice a decrease in their mood and energy levels during the winter months and this is due to the lack of daylight, colder temperatures and other lifestyle changes like eating habits and decreased socialization. A decrease in mood and energy levels can have a big impact on our day to day lives, how we interact with others, and how we feel about ourselves.
The change in seasons can impact an individual’s mental health. In more serious cases, people can develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is characterized by symptoms similar to depression and commonly presents during fall and winter due to the limited amount of sun exposure and the colder temperatures.
Whether or not you experience changes to your mood based on the change of seasons, it is so important to take the necessary steps to maintain your well-being, especially during the darkest (and coldest) of months.
Here Are Some Helpful Tips:
Start a Winter Activity: Although it may sound unappealing to spend time outside in the Winter, having something to look forward to, to practice and progress in can make being outside a lot more enjoyable. Exercise is good. Being outdoors is good, so a combination of the two can have a very positive impact on your overall well-being (and it gives you a reason to leave the house).
Dress warm: Being comfortable, warm and prepared can help protect your body and make being outside much more enjoyable. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars on winter clothes but having the necessities you need (hat, mitts, snow pants, winter jacket/parka, boots etc.) can definitely make a huge difference in enjoying the winter months. Dressing properly to stay warm can help motivate you to get outside even on cold/dark days.
Find an indoor activity: Let’s face it, some days are just so cold that it is probably a better choice to stay inside. This means it is also important to also have healthy indoor leisure activities/interests to engage in. You don’t want to feel like a prisoner in your own home, so even if you’d rather be outside, find some things you can do and enjoy inside!
Increase exposure to daylight: In the winter it can be hard for most people to get enough Vitamin D due to limited sunlight. It is important during these months to make adjustments to your routine to increase exposure to sunlight or to regulate your Vitamin D intake in other ways. Vitamin D has many health benefits, one being that it helps boost your mood! Eating foods rich in Vitamin D (Tuna, Salmon, Egg Yolk, cheese) or taking Vitamin D supplements can help boost your Vitamin D intake.
Plan for spring: Planning ahead can be a helpful tip as well. Spring is often a chance for people to have a fresh start. It’s a chance to do some cleaning/organizing, for nature to thaw and regrow. Planning for the season can help prepare you for the sunlight and warmth to come. You can do this by planning your garden, thinking of projects you may want to start and maybe redecorating/rearranging your environment or routine. Thinking ahead about potential positive experiences can help you get through those dark and cold days.
Take care of your physical health: This one is SUPER important! Making sure you are taking care of your physical health is essential to maintaining positive mental health. You can do this by continuing to eat a healthy/balanced diet, exercising regularly (inside or outside), drinking enough water/liquid and promptly taking care of any health concerns.
Practice Gratitude: When moods are low, it is easier for individuals to resort to automatic negative thinking patterns which can further worsen difficult feelings. Educate yourself on the thinking patterns/thoughts that contribute to your low mood and try and shift this negative thinking to a more positive perspective, by focusing on the positive aspects of your life. Focusing on things that we are thankful for, looking forward to, proud of or grateful for can have a positive impact on our overall mood and levels of happiness. Since we are more likely to feel down in the winter months, gratitude is especially important to practice and pay attention to during these times! (and always!)
Written for you, by therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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