**Disclaimer: The following is just a discussion about what I do and what I think is helpful in regards to maintaining a healthy body. This is in no way intended to be taken as medical advice. Please seek professional advice and opinions – i.e. see your doctor for information and guidance in the matters discussed.**
To me there is nothing worse about winter than the darkness that descends as the days get colder and summer turns into autumn. In my childhood, I never really understood the concept of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I mean, who cares! I was a night owl through and through. The darkness didn’t really bother me and winter meant snow!
In the last few years, however, the darkness and shortened daylight hours have started to bother me. Whether it is due to living further north than I have ever lived or due to stress, the shortening hours of daylight, the weaker sunlight, and the colder days seem to prompt an urge to hibernate. I kid you not that I was ready for bed at 6:30 PM. I managed to shake myself out of that stupor to cook some food, but I really considered going to sleep.
When I started to feel blue last winter, I decided to take some action against the winter blues. The following is a list of things that I have tried and my thoughts on each intervention.
- Light Therapy – I had considered getting a light therapy box for years, but never took the leap. When I found one being sold at Costco, I immediately bought myself one and tried it out. I like my “happy lamp.” Although I’m not a fan of it’s fluorescent glow (I much prefer my yellow colored halogen and incandescent lights), I think it helps to sit in front of the light during breakfast or while doing some work at my desk. A friend of mine has one that is an alarm clock that wakes you by gradually getting brighter like a sunrise and she loves it. I still have yet to invest in an alarm clock one, but it’s something on my wish list.
- Outdoor Exercise – Call me crazy, but last year I was outside freezing my butt off running with a friend at the park in all sorts of winter weather – sleet, snow, and ridiculously cold. You name it, we were running in it. Now, I’m not telling you to run in dangerously cold weather or in dangerous weather situations (like white out blizzards); we definitely had days that we deemed “too cold.” However, I recommend trying to make it outside as much as you can. For one thing it helps combat cabin fever, for another, getting outside keeps you connected to nature. You get to breathe some fresh air and when we ran in snow, the quiet outside was a nice break from my regular life. Being outside also means you’re getting some natural light exposure, which is worth getting no matter how little you think it is. You’d be surprised at how helpful it is to try and get as much outside time in the winter. The light is much brighter than you think. So far this “winter,” getting outside has been quite tricky. The working hours that I’m keeping are preventing me from getting any outside time. What’s worse is that there are no windows! Hopefully, this situation will change.
- Consider taking vitamins and supplements – Now, I am all for healthy, responsible eating, but sometimes you can’t do it all through food. The vitamin of concern during the winter at more northerly latitudes is vitamin D (see this fact sheet for more info). Last year, I bought a bottle of vitamin D supplements to take because I thought that maybe my blues were due to vitamin D deficiency. Guess what? I looked at the bottle of my multivitamin and found that I was getting more than enough vitamin D. So, my recommendations? First, if you’re worried, be smart and get your vitamin levels checked by your doctor with a blood test. If you are not really worried, find a good multivitamin and just take that. Personally, I take a multivitamin, vitamin C, and omega 3 fish oil capsules. Honestly, I think that smart eating and a regular multivitamin should keep your nutritional bases covered. (**P.S. Like I said above, none of this is actual medical advice, just a discussion of what I do and what I think is a good idea. Please be smart and if you have concerns or want to change something up, see your doctor!)
- Eat smart – Continue to eat well in the winter months. Remember your green vegetables and try to eat what’s in season as much as possible. I find it a little more challenging to eat in the winter. This is my first year eating paleo during the winter and well, I have been finding the farmer’s market getting sparser and sparser every week and I am getting less and less interested with my food. However, I am a firm believer that what you put into your body deserves examination. How you nourish your body will affect how your body feels and functions, so keep that in mind and eat well.
- Schedule fun winter activities – I used to love to ice skate. It’s something I forgot about until someone asked me to go. I still haven’t gone, but I plan on getting out there this year. I also want to try snowshoeing. My favorite winter activity right now is probably snowboarding. I’m not very good at it and I’m afraid I’ll break something one of these days (most worrisome being my head and/or neck…I wear a helmet all the time and you should, too), but I love to get out there. Even if I am only getting down the easier slopes. I’ve got fun, outdoors, and socialization built right in. Let’s hope I can get some slope time in this year.
Those are all the tips that I have for now. Give one or two a try (in a responsible way, please!) and add to the list in the comments. How do you keep your winter from getting you down?