Health & Wellness Articles

10 Cool Ways to Embrace Winter

Mood-Boosting Ideas to Beat the Winter Blues

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Winter is in full force. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, even the best of us can get a little down. The "winter blues" are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during this cold season. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here.

1. Exercise
As if we needed another reason to get fit! Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those "feel good chemicals" that improve your mood. 

2. Eat a Healthy Diet
What and when you eat has a great affect on your mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit) and get your daily 8 cups of water. These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels. 

3. Get Some Sun
Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. But did you know that it also improves your mood? Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed—without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors.  Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to "full spectrum" bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing. 

4. Act on your Resolutions
A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men. 

5. Avoid Binge Drinking
Staying in with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine may seem like the only thing to do in the winter months, and many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling down. But alcohol is actually a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting) is never a healthy choice. The morning after will have you feeling sick, depressed, and even more tired, which will affect many aspects of your life. This will make your low energy and "winter blues" even worse. 

6. Treat Yourself
Having something to look forward to can keep anyone motivated. Winter seems endless! But if you plan something exciting, your mood improves when you’re anticipating it and when the event actually comes. Plan something that’s exciting to you—a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party (but keep #5 above in mind), or special event like a play, girls (or guys) night out, or sporting event. 

7. Relax!
You’re busy! Work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings—even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some time off. Don’t be afraid to say "No" to extra opportunities (covering a shift for a co-worker, bringing food to your son’s class party). Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, especially in the form of yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking can help keep depression at bay. 

8. Embrace the Season
Instead of always avoiding the cold and the snow—look for the best that it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding! Enjoy these opportunities while they last—after all, they’re only here a few months per year. Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high. 

9. Get Social Support
Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Who can you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email or letter can brighten your mood. 

10. Catch some Zzzz’s
People naturally want to sleep a little bit more during the winter. But with all we have going on, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. With a little time management, and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Try not to oversleep—those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. Don’t forget naps! A short (10-30 minute) afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize midday.

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Member Comments

  • Ha ha ha! Living in Southern California winter is very different! Where I live summer temps get over 100 degrees on a daily basis, so working out outside is horrible. Winter is a great time to get outside for a change! Woo-hoo!
  • I detest winter. here in northern Indiana the winter can be 6 months long and we never see the sun. there is barely any light even sitting by the window and right now it is foggy and dreary. the sitting by the lights do not help. I need my sunshine out my window.
    It is way too cold to walk outside. 18 for a high tomorrow with snow and 40 mile an hour winds, I don't think so. would just like to hibernate until Spring. and just makes me want to sit and eat junk foods. probably why I have been on here for 6 years and not lost weight.
    I would so love to move to a warm, sunny climate but not a possibility at this time.
  • The last comment on this article was a year ago - would like to think that is by design but rather doubt it. This is my first winter on SP I hope my last except for an occasional check in but I would like to think that the program would be continuously updated. I love winter - summer not so much. Now I live in Southern CA and at least here I can tell you it is almost impossible to get good incandescent bulbs with the push for energy conservation and those are the only bulbs that work. This is also one of the first articles I've read where I haven't found anything for me. I am disappointed in that There should be something for everyone. While our cold isn't cold and snowy we do have much shorter days. People stay indoors more etc.
  • ARADWAN
    Thanks for this article . iam very love winter

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  • I love winter, it is my favorite season. I can't wait for the snow to come, I enjoy the cooler temperatures to exercise outside. It is just my absolute favorite time of the year!
  • Thanks for this article. The photo inspired me too - I think a nice, warm, red shirt would be like wearing a hug and cheer me up - I'm going to see if I can find one.
  • I agree with KARINCLEAVES on this one. These things certainly help, as does my broad spectrum light, but chasing the sun (and warmer climes) seems like the preferable response / plan.
    Steven
  • KARINCLEAVES
    Great ideas, but I still say moving south is the best way to deal with winter.
  • SELF-ACTUALIZED
    Great reminders - thank you for posting
  • I wish I could walk normally again but because of spinal osteoarthritis I walk a little ways almost every day but not like I used to but then again I am 70yrs old now and my health is not as good as it was even a few years ago.I used to get excited about the coming day now everyday is just like the last,what saves me is my love of creation and I am a fairly good artist and do love making my jewelry and will probably buy another kiln so I can return to being a potter which I miss.Right now we are just renting but hope to buy another home next year.Depression is a problem for both DH and myself.I do exercise every day on my elliptical and may start working out with other exercise equiptment. Walking every eve.after I do my elliptical helps me even if it is only around my short block.
  • I had surgery late last fall and my surgeon told me that as part of the recovery, I needed to walk outside EVERY day. And so I do, even if it is cloudy. I think that being outside and the (hopefully) fresh air is important. I especially make it a point to take advantage of the days when the sun is out...even if it is cold.
  • Overall, good suggestions but the part about sleeping is a little contradictory. Under the Relax paragraph it says to sleep in on the weekend but the last section on sleep says to get up at the same time. Getting up at the same time is the generally accepted suggestion.
  • I love to walk in the winter as long as know snow around. Great aarticle.
  • Finding time to walk outdoors when the sun is shining has always been a part of my winter strategy for staying up in the winter.. but not taking on more than I am able to accomplish is another... Full spectrum lights on my desk really helps too...
    High spirits...
  • I still love going for a walk in the winter if its not too cold and if its a crisp , sunny day.

About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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