As someone who grew up at least partially in Vermont, I should be used to dealing with severe winters, but the truth is, they've always been a struggle for me. When the temperature drops below an autumn chill and it starts getting dark, so goes my mood and motivation down with it. So while learning how to be happy in the winter continues to be a challenge for me, it's one I try to tackle gently by implementing self-care routines and asking for help when I need it.
And yes, many people tend toward depression and isolation in the winter months, which is believed in part to be a result of body rhythms getting out of whack due to changes in sunlight.
So if you're feeling low and slow as the months start to creep toward the depths of winter, and your motivation is dwindling with each passing day, remember there are always bright spots to be found among the darkness. That, and it's always a good idea to allot yourself some well-deserved "me time" when you're not feeling your best.
Elite Daily had the opportunity to speak with a few mental health and wellness pros, who have offered some great tips and suggestions for letting a little light into your life when the days start getting darker.
Physical therapist Dr. Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, reminds us about the importance of catching some rays: "Twenty minutes of sun exposure is the minimum amount of time required for vitamin D production," she shares with Elite Daily.
Vitamin D helps mood, brain activity, and nervous system functioning, and when you don't have enough of it, you can definitely feel low.
Dr. Wu also stresses the importance of maintaining physical exercise as part of your routine in the winter, even when it feels easier to put on slippers and curl up on the couch. A little movement will always help to improve your mood and well-being, and those benefits simply can't be overstated in the wintertime.
Dr. Wu tells Elite Daily,
Exercise helps increase circulation [and] core body temperature and releases endorphins. These feel-good hormones give you that "happy" feeling after working out, which help you combat the lows felt when the temperatures [drop] and the body wants to go into hibernation mode.
Don't let the dark evenings keep you from joining a dance class that you know, deep down, is going to make you smile big time.
Professional counselor Amber Dee tells Elite Daily that this time of year is when she sees a lot more clients, and that a spike in depression or less motivation is really common.
Her suggestion? "Use vision boards to help stay on track of your 'why,'" she says, or your "raison d'être," as the French say.
This simply means don't forget about your reasons for being you: your favorite things, images of what makes you feel happiest and most vibrant, the people you love, the things you might want to accomplish, or the places you'd like to go.
Sure, maybe today you want to stay in with tea, but tomorrow might be the perfect day to take a trip with your best friend to a museum, inspired by that beautiful O'Keefe print you have in the center of your new vision board.
While you might be more drawn to warmer and heavier foods this time of year (I know I am), make sure you're getting in your fair share of nutritious foods, and that you aren't only relying on treats to boost your mood.
Dr. David Greuner, co-founder of NYC Surgical Associates, tells Elite Daily,
Maintain a balanced diet, and try not to rely on sugar and caffeine; they may backfire later in the day causing you to crash even earlier as the days get shorter.
He adds that carb-heavy comfort foods can leave you feeling even more tired and lethargic than you already felt. That being said, you should absolutely still let yourself fully enjoy foods you like and that make you feel good.
So, as the winter draws ever nearer, try to implement some of these strategies to keep you feeling good. And in the midst of your winter blues, remember y'all: There is always a coming spring.