Winter Health

8 Ways to Beat the Cold Weather Blues

I’ll be honest, weaning daylight, wind, rain, snowing and blowing does not make “lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you” or anyone, for that matter. I’m not a skier, a snow boarder, a snow shower, or a snow mobile enthusiast, which means, come mid-November, I’m ready to go into full hibernation mode, and only bundling up in a parka and snow boots to leave the house when absolutely necessary. And I mean ABSOUTELY necessary!

Employ these eight tips to beat the cold weather blues…

 

1. Stalking Sunshine

I know that sunshine is rare during the November to March timeframe. However, exercise psychologists at Columbia University, in New York, give us reason to take full advantage of what little daylight we do get.

So despite the beckoning of your couch, resist the urge in order to get outdoors, even during cold weather. While vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) brightens mood and soothes depression—research shows that even getting outside on gray days can thaw your autumn and winter blues.

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2. Imbibing Too Much Holiday Cheer

Of course you need a spiked apple cider at Thanksgiving, a glass of rum eggnog at Christmas, and a few glasses of bubbly to ring in New Year’s Eve. But one innocent glass of nog can quickly become 2 or 3, or even 4. Suddenly you’ve binge drank the winter away.

A recent study from the University of Maryland found that binge drinking will leave you with more than a hangover. Excessive imbibing can weaken immunity and lead to frequent colds, flues, and other winter illnesses.

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3. Get Adventurous

Sure colder weather may bring on the urge to nest—or get cozy inside with less active hobbies (i.e., knitting or watching movies). However, neurologists at North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Health say resolving life to an indoor routine can quickly put you in a winter rut.

Instead, take this as your opportunity for adventure. If you can’t get outside, at least get outside of your routine with some new and exciting hobbies. Try a painting class, belly dancing, indoor volleyball, or hot yoga. Try a new cuisine, anything that will boost your sensory experience and prevent a negative frame of mind from setting in.

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4. Healthier Comfort Foods

Hearty beef stew, chili, macaroni and cheese casserole, turkey—comfort foods go hand in the hand with the cold seasons. It’s like Thanksgiving opens the floodgates to a river of refined carbohydrates and desserts. However, all of that heavy eating leads to the inevitable blood sugar spike and crash.

In the end, you’re pants are unzipped and your sawing logs on the couch every night. I don’t have to tell you that a rich winter diet with little exercise can quickly lead to weight gain. Instead, do your part to make comfort foods healthier by using leaner meats, root veggies and whole-wheat rice and pasta, and reserving desert for special occasions only.

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5. Liven Up with Exercise

Medical researchers at Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, claim that getting physical is your best ally for beating the blah weather blues. In fact, exercise not only lessens stress and depression, it also provides a significant mental health boost.

Sticking with your daily runs or hot yoga classes even when the days turn dark and grey is worth the extra effort. I do this by planning out my 30-minutes of fitness a day on my electronic calendar. I even make a specific “winter blues” mix to cheer up my runs.

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6. Rise and Shine

It’s natural to want to crawl back under the covers in November and sleep until spring. However, a 2014 study featured in the Sleep journal advises against sleeping the winter away.

The study recommends 7- to 8-hours each night—less sleep and more sleep can cause depression. In fact, research finds that sleeping in excess of 8-hours per session can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, and stroke.

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7. The Social Network

It’s common to want to hibernate with nothing more than a fuzzy blanket, a warm cup of tea, your cat, and 10 seasons of your favorite television series during the colder months. However, social isolation can exacerbate anxiety and depression.

A 2013 study published by ScienceDirect.com found that the act of socialization makes us happier, more balanced individuals. The study recommends committing to group socializations or groups (i.e., team sports) as a way to remain active and ward off depression during fall and winter.

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8. Turn Down the Sauna

You’ll inevitably have to crank up the thermostat a few notches come snowfall. However, creating sauna like temperatures with an artificial heat source can have negative consequences on your health.

According to research from WebMD, indoor heating that’s set too high will virtually zap moisture from the air and your skin, throat, eyes, and nasal passages, and leave you prone to colds, flu, and sinus infections. If you like it warm inside, use a humidifier to add moisture back into the environment.

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