The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, the cold weather has set in, and spring seems like a long time away.
If you are like many people, you may be experiencing a post-Christmas letdown or what we commonly call the “winter blues.” Some of the causes include the low amount of daylight hours, the wintry weather that keeps us more sedentary and the after-effects of some holiday diet splurges. In addition, we may be less than thrilled with heading back to the same-old, same-old after a festive break from our normal routine.
Take heart. There are some tangible ways to combat the winter blues. Here are seven ways you can get your 2016 off to a healthier and more energetic start.
1. Get outside. During the shorter days of winter, our bodies produce more melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. As a result, we can feel more sluggish. When we combine that lack of energy with the wintry weather outside, we may stay inside more than we should.
To combat the negative feelings that result from staying put too often, plan to spend some time outdoors each day. Even a 20- to 30-minute walk can improve your outlook by triggering the production of mood-boosting endorphins in your brain.
Aim to make the most of the day’s sunlight, since the sun provides the body with important Vitamin D. In addition, when you are inside working, try to sit by a window to expose yourself to as much light as possible during the day.
2. Get some exercise. If it is too cold or wet to spend much time outdoors, head to the gym for a workout. Even 20 minutes of activity can elevate your mood and reduce anxiety levels.
January is a great time to start an exercise class or to take up an indoor sport, such as swimming, that will get you moving. It’s even a great time to start an outdoor sport, such as snowshoeing.
Don’t forget to use exercise as a time to unplug from your electronics. A growing amount of research indicates that our dependence on our smartphones and other forms of technology is making us more stressed.
3. Bring the outdoors in. Indoor plants can boost your spirits and make your home or workplace healthier. Many plants absorb airborne pollutants and release fresh oxygen and beneficial negative ions into the indoor air.
The Environmental Research Laboratory reports that rooms filled with plants can contain more than 50 percent fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants.
Additionally, a 2014 study by Exeter University that was published in the journal of the American Psychological Association found that employees were 15 percent more productive when a few houseplants were added to their previously bare workspaces.
Similarly, another study by Washington State University found that workers with common houseplants in their offices were 12 percent more productive and reported less stress than workers without plants in their offices.
Another way to being the outdoors inside is with better indoor lighting. Many sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) find they feel better when they spend time in front of or beneath a light box. Your doctor can give your more information on this light therapy.
4. Watch your nutrition. You don’t need to beat yourself up for all of those Christmas goodies you ate, but now is the time to get your diet and nutrition back on track.
When we reach for sugary foods and for comforting carbohydrates such as pastas and breads, we may in fact be contributing to our feelings of winter doldrums. Be sure to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lean proteins in your diet.
In addition, many of us neglect to drink enough water during the winter. With dry indoor air and cold outdoor temperatures, we need to make an effort to stay hydrated. You’ll feel better and look better if you do!
5. Plan activities you enjoy. After the holidays, we can miss the social aspect of parties and other events. There is no reason your winter calendar should be a blank slate. Look for ways to keep active.
Try an art class or a book club, for example. Attend movies, concerts, plays or museum events. Plan fun activities or outings around winter holidays such as President’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
6. Help others. Many people look for ways to give back to the community over Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the need for volunteers is great all year-round. A benefit of volunteering is that it makes you feel better while you are helping others.
The opportunities for helping others in your community are endless. Check with your place of worship, your local food bank or homeless shelter. You also could ask at your library or area schools.
7. Plan for spring. Another way to lift your spirits is to make concrete plans for the warmer months. Check out seed catalogs. Create a map for your spring and summer garden. Take a gardening workshop. Reorganize your garage workspace for spring projects.
When the weather permits, prepare your garden for vegetable planting by turning over your soil. Add compost, leaves and other organic material to the soil to enrich it for your spring garden. Research ways you can conserve water when the warm weather hits.
What advice would you add to this list? Share it in the section below: