As we head into the darker months, a lot of us hibernate like bears. Let's face it, it's dark outside when we leave work, so it feels like we missed the entire day. Sometimes it's even dark when we go in to the office (super depressing!). Most of us thrive more in the warmer months, so we spend most of our time inside where there's heat. With less sunshine and lower levels of activity, there are a lot of us that get the winter blues, or in extreme cases, what doctors have dubbed SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder, is basically what the acronym says -- we get sad because it's dark and dreary. So, how do we get through the winter darkness without feeling crappy? Here are a few ideas:
Yes, it's freezing, and yes, who even wants to put on fifty layers of clothing in order to have the outside weather be bearable? Not a lot of us, I know. The one thing that contributes most to better moods, is regular exercise. Every doctor will tell you this very fact. When the winter temperatures hit, we often stay inside, and don't get our blood moving through our bodies. The best pick me up for any day is a morning walk, and getting out in the beautiful winter scenery will not only get you some exercise, but it will also get you some sunshine. If the mornings are too hard for you, try going in the middle of the day. Take 10 minutes on your lunch break, bundle up and head out for a brisk walk. It will also get your brain juices flowing and make your afternoon more productive. I've noticed the afternoons I get less sleepy at work are the ones where I walked around at lunch. Plus, the benefit of seeing the sun when it's up, even if it's only up for 8 hours makes a world of difference against your case of the SADs.
Another idea, if you're a real warrior, is to try running. It's hard if the roads are icy or slushy, since they become very slippery for running shoes, but if you can find a good stretch of smooth road, give it a go. We are more inclined to exercise less in the winter because it's too cold for fun activities outside (unless you're a skier or want to make a snowman). Again, this will provide you with all the benefits listed above, and you'll feel like a warrior for running in the crappy weather. Plus, you get to see the beautiful winter scenery, and you might even gain more of an appreciation for this cold season. If you have access to a treadmill and prefer to exercise away from the cold, make sure you take it for a spin every couple of days. Your body, mind and mood will thank you for it.
Other exercise ideas: sledding, skiing, shoveling your sidewalk, mattress wrestling.
One of the best ways to perk up a "blahhhh" mood is to invite over some friends and family. Open a bottle, serve up your best dish, and just laugh the night away in a heat controlled setting. You can set up a pretty tablescape with candles and pine boughs, or you can build a fire and drink coffee and hot cocoa around it. Stay social, it's easy to hibernate and avoid the freezing outdoors, but you'll feel better if you've had some good ol' human interaction.
Fall/winter get-together ideas: Pre-Thanksgiving friend dinner, Christmas tree decorating party, do a rotating dinner club where each month it's hosted by a different person in the group, pumpkin carving with friends, go to a corn maze followed by hot cider/cocoa/coffee.
Last year, when I was having a particularly hard time picking up my moods, I felt like crap ALL the time, not just on days I grieved hard. I decided to get a blood test to make sure I wasn't fighting off some weird infection. My doctor decided to also do a Vitamin D level check. Normal Vitamin D levels are about 50. My Vitamin D levels were at a 13. No wonder I felt so terrible! They put me on a high daily dosage and once my levels normalized I could feel a huge difference in my day to day. With summer arriving, I tapered off it, and spent more time gardening in the sunshine. As the amount of light is beginning to shorten each day, I've started taking it again to prevent the winter blues.
When you think of dehydration you probably think of a man walking in a parched desert baking in the sun, right? While we lose a large amount of fluids in the summer through sweating, we lose more fluids breathing cold air. This happens because the air must be warmed and moistened in our throats and lungs in order for us to breathe it in properly. When you exhale, the reason you can see your breath is that there is water vapor in it. The winter air is drier which is why you can see your breath in the air. Also, because of this, you can dehydrate quickly in the frigid winter months. Water is vital to our entire body's ability to control all of its systems. Make sure you're still drinking enough water every day. This will also help protect your body's ability to maintain it's core temperature, and warm itself back up if it gets too cold.
Your turn! What do you do to stay happy in the winter months? Share your ideas below!