No one is left unscathed when it’s dark, cold, and uncomfortable outside. But there are ways and means to prepare yourself to not even come to the mood low during the cold winter months.
I became fully aware of these “lows” when I emigrated to Estonia in winter – late January 2020. The winters are long, dark, and bitter cold. A couple of days ago, we reached -0.4°F (-18°C) during the day. Over the last two years, I became much more aware of its impact on my mood; that’s why I would like to share six tips on how to fight the winter blues.
Daylight has an activating and stimulating effect on the body and mind, as it suppresses the body’s own sleep hormone, melatonin. In addition, the good-mood messenger’s serotonin and norepinephrine are increasingly activated. We, therefore, feel more alert and fit during the day. I try to go outside for at least 30 minutes a day, especially in winter – yes, actually even at -0.4°F because I notice an immense difference in my well-being. If possible, I recommend going for a walk without sunglasses because the direct light incidence on the retina signals to the body that the melatonin production can be reduced for the time being. This effect is also true when the sky is overcast, and I actually do feel most productive when I return home from my walk.
Who doesn’t know the feeling of well-being and happiness after exercise? After all, exercise boosts the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. In addition, science suspects that sport can reduce the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisone. Therefore, starting sports activities as a preventative measure before winter sets in can directly have a long-term effect. Start with 20-30 minutes of light exercise daily. For example, I do my weekly shopping on foot instead of by car (as long as my bags won’t be too heavy). An alternative idea would be to take the bike instead of the car (if, of course, the roads are not icy and the necessary protective equipment is available).
Reduce stress factors
Easier said than done! Stress in itself is not always just unhealthy, but if you also suffer from an autoimmune disease, you are probably familiar with the potential effects on your body.
Prolonged stress leads to an imbalance of tension and relaxation. The body then fails to regenerate sufficiently. This permanent tension is unhealthy. It is therefore vital to consciously give the body and mind recovery phases. Only in this way can the organism be freed from permanent tension. Even a cup of tea in the garden or balcony in peace brings a moment of relaxation. Yoga or relaxing music also acts as a balm for body and soul. I offer donation-based private yoga classes via Zoom – contact me if you want to know more.
Nutrition is directly related to brain metabolism. Through our eating habits, we directly influence the brain’s neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin, the happiness messenger, is responsible for a good mood. On the other hand, a lack of dopamine makes us appear tired and numb and leads to concentration problems. Nuts, bananas, avocados, and dark chocolate, for example, could help here. Omega-3 fatty acids are also said to influence mental well-being positively. In addition, special dietary supplements can provide relief.
I dedicate a whole article to this topic, which you can find here. Healthy sleep is an essential basis for our psychological well-being. If the sleep-wake rhythm is out of balance, this impacts our mental health. Often, especially in winter, this balance falters. It is therefore essential that you neither sleep too much nor too little. 7-9 hours a day is considered the optimum. Even if it is cozy in your warm bed, set an alarm clock so that you do not sleep too long.
Stay in touch
Social contacts are crucial for mental health, especially in the still current Corona situation. Loneliness can make you ill as the stress hormone cortisol increases. So do not isolate yourself and stay in contact with the important people around you. Even if it is only over the phone or by e-mail – a short exchange can sometimes work wonders.
Stay safe & happy holidays to you and your loved ones.
Warm wishes from Switzerland,