In light of COVID this may be considered a ‘first world’ issue for many of us but I am absolutely convinced the ‘winter blues’ is a thing. It’s not uncommon for colder weather, grey skies and shorter days to cause you to feel a little more fatigue and otherworldliness or need to take a little extra effort to concentrate. I am not talking about feeling depressed during winter or down because of a bad situation. You feel OK but like the edge has been taken off your ‘zest’ and this can build up to feeling ‘blah’.
I have seen it in my own household and business over the years and thought I would pass on some tried, tested and easy tips. Not pop slogans like ‘surround yourself with positive people’ or ‘invest in some me time’ but practical, simple things to implement. Especially, given busyness often makes us miss very simple solutions to feeling better.
- Make your environment brighter.
I 100% know that for me, being in the sunlight helps my mood.
The science certainly shows that sunshine balances serotonin activity, increases melatonin production, balances your circadian sleep rhythms and elevates Vitamin D levels, which can all lead to simply feeling good.
So, stepping out at lunch or opening the blinds or curtains and sitting by the window while you work can do wonders. If the glare makes this difficult for screentime, try to catch some light during your breaks or just position yourself so you can see the bright area, even in the distance.
- Change your environment around, even a little
I do not want to sound like an advertisement for Ikea but I have been amazed at how good it can be to just move my desk or a table, add some colour or tidy up that uninspiring corner.
My eldest son came home from overseas at the beginning of the year and convinced me to rearrange a few things in the house and I was amazed what a difference it made.
I think sometimes we can just get stuck with the way things are and resist change. The bright flowery cushions that jumped out at me in a store also make a gloomy rainy dark day more positive. Who would have thought!
- Tune in with some music
Spotify is an online music service that has changed the life of our household and has been a godsend in winter. Gloomy, rainy day? On goes the study jazz or café music playlist.
In Australia, the free ABC radio and online music is fantastic for brightening up the mood in the office or at home. Just in the background to keep the place calm and moving along while it rains.
- The aroma can be real therapy
Whether you believe in the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy or not, let me tell you burning oils certainly lifts the spirits in winter. Feeling present in a refreshing smelling environment does wonders for mood.
Well worth the effort.
- Diet and Vitamins
There is vast research indicating the link between winter and vitamin deficiency. So, a trip to the nutritionist or naturopath may be a good investment.
B-Complex vitamins are known to assist your body convert proteins into the neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which are needed for mood and energy. While most B vitamins have some benefits for mental health, in terms of mood the most important B vitamins include vitamin B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12.
Good sources of B-vitamins include beef, poultry, tuna, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, beans and dark leafy vegetables.
- Exercise, movement or ‘just getting out’
We all know exercise makes us feel vital and alive. I love walking and my local parklands and coastal walks are fantastic. But it really can be hard to fit in walking every day and many of my friends’ eyes would glaze over reading a recommendation of 30 minutes of walking every day. Like when?
My approach is to just be conscious of how much I am moving around and make sure I do not spend hours sitting without getting up. I am not sure why, but my laptop recently started giving me notifications to ‘stand up and move around for one minute’.
Sometimes I say to my people ‘I have just got to get out’. Even at home you can find yourself ‘in the zone’ in winter and before you know it you have been inside for two even three days. This makes doing a coffee run or visiting the store a simple winter pleasure so you can expend some energy, see some people and change your surroundings.
- Stay conscious of positivity
It may sound simplistic, even superficial but I am a big believer in positive thinking and avoiding too much negativity. I do not mean shunning bad news or people going though a hard time but making a real attempt to find the ‘silver lining’ when problems arise. It is like ‘mental exercise’ or a mindset where you just shake yourself mentally when you are feeling a bit ‘bluesy’.
Think of the Scandinavian concept of hygge, the ethos of embracing winter as a time to slow down, actually enjoy being at home, and spending time inside with family and friends. A cup of ‘tea and sympathy’ with a friend always leaves me feeling lighter and with a smile on my face.
A few final thoughts
Seven simple ideas to navigate the winter blues.
Of course, if you are feeling more than just a bit blah, please seek help.
See your doctor to ensure you are OK.