Beating the Winter Blues

on February 21, 2012

by Meredith

I am just back from spending a few days on the Sunshine Coast and I am feeling rejuvenated from spending some time in such a calm, peaceful, and sunny (the Coast lived up to its name!) setting. The sunny weather and the positive effect it had on my mood got me thinking about how much winter weather can affect my mood, especially living on the west coast with our wet and grey winters.

During the winter months, it is quite common for people to get the “winter blues” and to feel sluggish, unmotivated, tired, and unhappy. In Vancouver, where the rain and grey skies can last for weeks at a time, it is incredible to see the difference a day of sunshine can have on a person’s attitude and mood. While everyone’s mood can be affected in some way by the weather, for some people the long, dark winter days can affect them quite dramatically and some may experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a kind of severe depression (for more information on SAD check out http://heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/factsheets/sad. If you feel you may have SAD, talk to your doctor).

While we wait for warmer, sunnier weather to arrive with spring, there are some strategies that can help to beat the winter blues as we wait:

  • Spend time outdoors each day. This could include taking a walk during your lunch hour or during your break. Even if it is cloudy, the activity and exposure to natural light can boost your mood.
  • When indoors, open up the curtains and try to stand or sit near windows to get as much natural light as possible.
  • Socialize with friends and family to help boost your mood. Suggest spending time together outdoors when possible.
  • Continue to be physically active. While you may want to stay cocooned inside and may not be very motivated to exercise, staying active can help reduce stress, build energy, and increase your physical and mental wellbeing. 
  • If possible, install skylights or add more lamps to rooms where you spend most of your time.
  • Many people with SAD respond well to artificial light. A health professional can be consulted about ‘light therapy.’

Best of all, spring is just around the corner! So keep your eye out for signs of spring – I have seen them everywhere, including tulips starting to pop up and even a rhododendron bush starting to bloom!

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