The leaves are falling, the clocks have been turned back, and the skies are gray. Ugh! It’s beginning to look like winter in Western Pennsylvania. The “winter blues” are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during the winter months. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here.
Here are a few ways to keep your energy high and your mood lifted:
Exercise: The effects of a good workout can last for hours; it boosts your metabolism and helps your mind by releasing those “feel good chemicals” that improve your mood. And added bonus to your training is the social support. Don’t underestimate the supportive power of your fellow athletes.
Eat Healthy: What and when you eat has a great affect on your mood and energy levels. Avoid refined and processed foods. These foods are not only devoid of nutrients, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood. Try to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. Fresh foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels.
Get Some Sun: Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. But it also improves your mood. Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend little time outdoors. Just like exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors. Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in, and sit near windows.
Relax: In the midst of your hectic days, try spending a few minutes each day doing nothing. Relaxation can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm feeling. Getting enough sleep is also important. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Try not to oversleep—those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired.
And finally, embrace the season. Instead of avoiding the cold, gloomy weather, look for the best that it has to offer like hearty meals, warm beverages, and holiday parties. Enjoy these opportunities while they last—after all, they’re only here a few months each year (thank goodness). Staying active will boost your energy. And seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.