Health Advocate Blog

Winterize your mental health

It’s common to feel glum, sluggish and just not up to par during winter’s dimmed sunlight, dreary weather and limited opportunities for physical activity. On the bright side, taking small actions can stoke your mood and energy, helping you beat the “winter blues.” Try these suggestions: 

Go outside for a 10-minute daily dose of sunlight. Even on gray days, light from the sun plays a role in your body’s production of serotonin that helps regulate your energy, mood and sleep quality. 

Get your body moving! Physical exercise (“nature’s antidepressant”) can increase endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost. On days that you work, tryry to get up and walk around , taking the stairs whenever possible. If you’re running errands, pace up and down the grocery store aisles. Just keep moving!

Power up with healthy foods. Aim for a balanced diet of proteins, whole grains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa) and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Studies show that this can help you have higher levels of optimism and lower levels of depressive symptoms.

Reach for vitamin D-rich foods. Especially if you live in northern climates with months of scarce sunshine, you may lack sufficient levels of vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”), which is needed for energy. Choose dairy foods and foods naturally fortified with vitamin D, such as mackerel and other fish. Ask your health practitioner about vitamin D supplementation. 

Do something new or fun. Whether you volunteer for a work assignment, join a winter walk at the nature center, or take a pottery class, find what sparks your enthusiasm and momentum.

Take time to slow down and recharge. Read, listen to music by candlelight, or hang out with friends. Keep your sleep schedule on track and avoid filling up on too many holiday goodies! Plus, curb alcohol, which can affect your moods.