As the days grow colder and the nights grow longer, many of us may be feeling what is called the winter blues, characterized by having trouble waking up or sleeping too much, feeling less sociable or interested in our usual hobbies, and experiencing bouts of irritation or unhealthy cravings. Energy and productivity are naturally associated with sunlight, and I personally feel happier and more relaxed when the sun is still out. When the sun sets at 4 or 5 PM, it feels like the day has ended before it’s even begun, becoming blanketed with an overwhelming sense of lethargy and gloom. Here are some ways that I’ve found helpful in fighting the winter blues!
Wake up earlier than you usually do
For most, this will be harder to do in the start, but after overcoming the temporary feeling of sleepiness early in the morning, there is a small sense of self-accomplishment for beginning the day bright and early. The scarcity of sunlight during the winter months means we’ll need to appreciate it more than usual, even if that means breaking normal habits.
Another hypothesized cause of the winter blues is decreased levels of serotonin and increased levels of melatonin. The former is responsible for energy and feelings of contentment or happiness, while the latter helps you retire at night to fall asleep. Thus, a decrease in serotonin production and increase in melatonin would understandably boost lethargy and feelings of depression. Exercise is a good way to re-balance these hormone levels and help you feel more motivated and productive. Even taking a simple walk in the neighborhood is a good way to get outside and get your blood pumping.
Maintain a healthy diet
A lack of sunlight also means a lack of Vitamin D, so be sure to eat foods rich in this essential nutrient, such as mushrooms, orange juice, cereal and oatmeal, and different types of milk. If you are also experiencing heightened cravings for unhealthy foods, all the more reason to avoid giving in. Vegetables, fruit, and the right balance of nutrients sounds like something you’ve heard over and over again your entire life, but it’s necessary for a reason.
Reach out to others
With the early sunset may come with a sense of loneliness, especially due to quarantine and online classes. During these times, talking with friends and family to realize they may be going through the same thing will alleviate the stress you’re experiencing. I personally find more comfort in being alone, so there are many times where I’ve preferred to stick to myself rather than interacting with others. This habit perpetuates the gloomy mood, so I often have to force myself to break my own bubble.
The bottom line is, you will need to push yourself. As temperatures drop and snow falls, we will feel more tempted to withdraw into the coziness of our blankets, but this exact feeling of safety and warmth will prolong any depressive moods and feelings of lethargy later on. Whether you need someone else to yank the blanket off (figuratively or literally) or for you to overcome it by yourself, it will pay itself forward. If you’re looking for a sign to turn things around and become more proactive, this is it.