As winter temperatures fall and shorter days become the norm, many people become more susceptible to mental health concerns, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, isolation, and more. You might feel the need to sleep longer, notice a change in your appetite, or find it challenging to do things you normally love. Luckily, there are strategies to mitigate mental health risks in the cold season. If you or a loved one are feeling low during the winter, there are some reliable ways to boost your mood and embrace the delights of the season. Let’s take a closer look!
Weather the Outdoors
Going outside during the winter may seem like an intimidating prospect, but regular exercise is as healthy for your mind as it is for your body. Even just 15 minutes of walking around your neighborhood can help boost your energy levels, help you sleep, and improve your mood thanks to chemicals that are released in your brain. Taking a longer walk to be in nature has also been shown to relax your mind. For this winter, try expanding your outdoor activities by dressing in warm layers and taking a walk. Once you get moving, cold air can be invigorating. Additionally, spending time in daylight, even in winter, is great for your health and can help improve your vitamin D levels.
Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein are certainly important for your body, but also crucial for a healthy mind. For instance, a research published in BMC Medicine reviewed 67 patients who received treatment for depression and prescribed half the patients nutritional counseling. After 12 weeks, the group that altered their diet showed an overall reduction in depression levels. While winter does coincide with quite a few holidays where you might be eating less-than-healthy delectables, be sure to include food items that offer nutritional density. Look for foods that are antioxidant rich, contain Vitamins C, A, and K, and offer plenty of potassium. Be sure to also stay hydrated by drinking enough water everyday.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
You might be thinking this one’s obvious, but the reality is that many individuals don’t get the proper amount of sleep. Most adults should strive to sleep for around seven to nine hours per night. During winter, it can be tempting to turn up the heater and pile on the blankets, but research shows sleeping in cooler temperatures is better for you. It can help with insomnia, reduce stress, and decrease depression. Try keeping your thermostat between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but make sure you’re still comfy and not cold.
Keep Up With Friends & Family
While the winter and its holidays can understandably feel isolating, it’s crucial to maintain an active social life. Plenty of studies show that humans benefit from staying social and having strong friendships. But when winter hits, it can be hard to summon the motivation to get out of bed or off the couch to do something under a gray, cloudy sky. But spending time with loved ones can deliver a powerful boost to your mood while helping to decrease depression. Even if you prefer a small group of friends who are away for vacation, a good alternative to interacting with folks you know is volunteering or joining a local extracurricular group. This could be a book club, a daily runners group, a team that likes playing board games together, or anything you’re passionate about.
There’s no denying that winter can bring as many mental health risks as it does seasonal delights. But by ensuring that you have mental health strategies to get the most out of the season, you can thrive during winter instead of feeling trapped by the cold. Additionally, if you’re interested in seeing a board certified physician free of charge and getting access to new clinical depression treatments, feel free to apply to join our depression study!