Winter blues may seem cliché, but they can be a real issue for many people. A family physician at the hospital might call it “seasonal affective disorder,” and up to 20 percent of the population may be affected by mood changes that coincide with colder temperatures and less sunlight. Beating the blues can help people maintain a more positive outlook when cooped up inside the house.
Even when the temperatures plummet in the winter, people derive significant benefits from spending time outdoors. Before venturing out, bundle up in weather-appropriate gear that includes inner layers of warm clothing, a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, a wind-resistant winter coat, and boots. Taking a daily walk or run outdoors in the middle of the day provides exposure to natural light and fresh air, which helps elevate mood. Children should spend active time outdoors daily as well during the winter months.
Regular exercise is also a mood enhancer thanks to the serotonin that naturally floods the blood stream with elevated heart rate. A family physician may recommend up to 60 minutes of physical activity or exercise per day for optimal year-round health. Combining exercise with bright light can be even more effective for improving mood, so walking outdoors or exercising indoors under bright lights can be helpful for many people.
It can be tempting to turn to food for comfort, especially during the cold months. The simple carbohydrates found in high-calorie desserts and snacks may provide a temporary feeling of happiness, but these feelings don’t last. Instead, when blood sugar levels crash, people are left feeling sad or anxious. Striving to eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates can help people maintain a healthy weight and happier mood.
Anyone seeking the advice of a family physician at a hospital about seasonal affective disorder or winter blues can get helpful advice about simple lifestyle modifications that will often produce big improvements in mood and outlook.
Special thanks to Joe Penna for the image.