We hear it again and again: exercise will help us feel better. Jensen agrees. Keeping the body active will produce endorphins—pain-relieving hormones often known as “runner’s high” hormones—that also help us feel better. “Getting the heart rate pumping above normal for that person will lift their mood,” recommends Jensen.
When the sun is out, bundle up and take a short 20 to 30 minute walk outside. The fresh air mixed with sunlight will lift your spirit. However, for those living in a valley mid-winter where inversions may contribute to SAD, walking through the neighborhood is not recommended. The best way to enjoy a sunny inversion day, according to Dr. Jensen, is to get up high enough where the inversion is not present. A trip to the canyon to ski or hike will clear the mind.
Talk (and Laugh) with Someone
Having a buddy isn’t just for kids—it’s for anybody. “Support systems give people a chance to talk through things and help them realize that they are not alone,” says Dr. Jennifer Cannon, with the Child Evaluation & Treatment Center in American Fork, Utah.
Feeling alone, especially during the holidays, can make anyone want to hibernate and stay inside longer, so maintaining relationships becomes vital to coping with this mild depression. Cannon likes to compare our feelings and support systems to a balloon. “Emotions go into the balloon, and as it gets bigger and bigger, if you don’t have a way to let them out, that balloon will explode,” she says. Talking to someone in a support system, to family, or to friends will help those feelings decrease. Even if the conversation is about minor things, talking helps keep our emotions in check.
Live It Up
“Get out of the house at least once a week,” Cannon says. “Do something fun for you.” It is easy to stay inside all day, every day when it’s dark and the weather is moody. The importance of getting out with friends, family, or co-workers seems minimal, but it becomes something to look forward to.
If the activity is habitual and fun, a person with winter blues can focus on the activity instead of what they can’t do.
Healthy and Happy
Yes, even what we eat contributes to our mood. Winter comes, the fresh peaches are gone, tomatoes are canned, and watermelons no longer fill the huge bins in the grocery store. Choices become minimal and more expensive for fresh fruits and vegetables, but finding ways to eat healthily will contribute to better moods. Choose citrus, which naturally boosts energy and is in season during the winter. Check out the more exotic pomegranates, and get winter squash, broccoli, snow peas, and sweet potatoes, all of which grow in winter. And try to limit your intake of heavy holiday sweets—weight gain and feeling heavy can contribute to low feelings.
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