I hope you are enjoying the Holiday Season and the peacefulness of winter, nature’s time of rest and rejuvenation. It is truly a time of self-reflection, connection with love ones, holiday festivities, and the excitement of an upcoming new year with the opportunity to redefine one’s self.
But for many, December (or winter in general) can be a tough time emotionally and physically. I am reminded of this as my own energy is waning and my mental focus is harder to come by right now. The problem for many is that it is not usually just one thing that is affecting us. For me, chronic and annoying health conditions, not being able to exercise (because of said health conditions), lack of sunlight, being pulled in too many directions, and making poor food choices are all contributing this week.
The most common reason people have a decrease in energy, focus, and positive moods? Lack of sunlight which can lead to a decrease in Vitamin D. Read more about Vitamin D deficiency. Lack of sunlight can also lead many people to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
There are things we can do to improve how we feel. Below are strategies and resources to help you (or your loved ones) improve your health and overall wellbeing in these colder, darker winter month. Seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe or worrying you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you or someone you know, is suffering from depression (read symptoms of depression) or is not able to make progress, a mental health professional is the best first step. You can find one near you at Psychology Today.
Winter Strategies: start small and build
- Take Vitamin D
- You can get vitamin D from food but many of us will need a supplement in the winter months. Not all supplements are created equal, Vitamin D is not readily absorbed in all it’s commercial forms. Look for a Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K combination.
- See your doctor and get tested to see how low your Vitamin D levels really are.
- Everlywell offers a home test kit for vitamin D levels. If you want to order one of Everlywell’s tests, contact me for a 15% discount code. Read more at Everlywell.com.
- Get Outside
- Nature is the best medicine. Getting fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for your health and well-being. Take a quick walk at lunch or park a little farther away when doing errands. 5 or 10 minutes here and there can add up.
- Don’t hibernate. We are social creatures; even introverts. Accept that invitation. Call a friend and family member. Meet for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Go see a movie with someone. Invite someone over for dinner. Take a class or workshop. At work, get up and go talk to that co-worker instead of sending an email. We need connection. Feelings of isolation can increase depression and mood disorders.
- Get Organized
- Feeling frayed, unfocused, and unsuccessful can have detrimental affects. Use your calendar to make time for those things that are important to you. Set reminders. Make lists. Start your day by looking at your calendar and to-do list and picking the 3 most important things that must get done, anything else is icing on the cake. Do not rely on your memory.
- It is a fact, exercise boosts moods. Getting up and getting your heart pumping and blood moving is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Although we should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, some is always better than none. Start small. Even 5-10 minutes here and there can add up and boost your mood.
- Eat Smarter
- Food can affect your mood and your health. Avoid foods that negatively affect you and/or cause symptoms. DO treat yourself. DO enjoy and taste your food. DO eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. DO eat that dark chocolate. Follow this link for more information about foods that can boost your mood.
- Enjoy a hobby
- Doing something you enjoy and that disconnects you from work, your to do lists, and your thinking brain will help you feel happier and more relaxed. Paint, listen to music, cook, photograph, etc.
- Do Good
- Helping others can help you feel better about yourself and boost your mood. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry. Volunteer with your local Council on Aging by checking in on homebound seniors. Donate food to a local pantry. Check your local government’s website for volunteer opportunities. Doing good feels good.
- Practice Gratitude
- Making the switch from negative thoughts to positive thoughts can help boost mood. For example, instead of focusing on how much you can’t do or how cold you are, make a list of all the things you like and appreciate about winter. Make a list of all the good things in your life and really feel that gratitude. It’s a natural instinct to focus on our fears, dangers, and stressors but doing so too much can be detrimental. Choose love. Choose to focus on the benefits of whatever is causing an issue. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
When we are cold or in a funk, it can be hard to get started. Motivation may be lacking. But just get started no matter how small the action. Visualize yourself doing what you want to do, schedule it, and then make yourself do it.
The first step is the hardest.
Focus on the positive outcomes and find meaning in what you do every day.