From hedgehogs to grizzly bears… hibernation is a common mammalian trait. During the cold, winter months, metabolism decreases in response to a dearth of food and resources, and these animals enter a stage of dormancy. It’s not uncommon for humans to feel a desire to do something similar.
The Winter Blues
Often, you might think or hear someone else say, “I wish I could just hibernate through this weather,” or “I just want to curl up and sleep,” when faced with another cold and dark winter day. In fact, it is completely natural to want to avoid harsh weather. But at some times, it can be much more than that.
As a species, we have developed and evolved beyond the need for dormancy in the winter. We have bountiful resources all year long, and for many of us, the nature of our work remains the same throughout the year. It’s not only possible, but necessary to continue our lives through the dreary depths of winter.
Why are we gloomy in the winter?
It’s all well and good that we have the abilities and resources to power through the winter, but there are very real effects that this can have on our mood and health. Many people struggle with negative moods, lack of motivation, and trouble maintaining a consistent sleep schedule throughout the winter. We, as humans, certainly feel the effects of dwindling sunlight hours, and dropping temperatures. Some of us struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, while others just feel the drain that comes with a lack of Vitamin D and physical activity.
Combating the Winter Blues
This lack of sunlight, and the resulting deficiency in Vitamin D is a real issue that can throw off the rhythms of our bodies. The good thing about this, though, is that we know what is happening, and we know how to counteract it.
Harness the Sunlight
Make an effort to get fresh air and sunlight when it’s available. Make an excuse to get outside and walk around when you see the sun shining. Do everything you can to bring more sunlight into your life—open your curtains and let the morning light filter in; try to find a position in your office where you are exposed to a window; experiment with natural light and artificial alternatives. Changing the nature of the light in your workspace can relieve eye strain, tension in your head, and improve your mood. Just a few minutes of warming sunlight can alter your disposition for the rest of the day.
Even if you aren’t a particularly exercise-minded person, it’s very important for your mental health to engage in physical activity; especially in the winter. Moving from one sedentary experience to another is detrimental to both our physical and mental health. Even if going outside isn’t possible with your current weather conditions, make it a point to set aside some time for dedicated physical activity. When you don’t feel like you have the energy to exercise, start by stretching. Sometimes, this simple act of engaging our muscles is enough to break out of our sedentary funk, and get the endorphins moving again.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Between our cold-weather cravings, a lack of fresh greens, and all of the holiday cookies and pies, it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy diet throughout the winter. Even if we may splurge here and there, eating an extra left-over gingerbread-man, it’s important that we continue to provide our bodies with the things they need. It can be hard to maintain the levels of vitamins and minerals that we need, when our diet is limited by what is fresh and available. Consider taking C and D vitamins to stave off illness and improve mood. Fish oil is another long-heralded supplement that can help keep you balanced in the cold months.
Sometimes, when the cold weather comes around, we forget that our bodies still need to stay hydrated. In the summertime, we crave a nice cold glass of water from time to time, but during the winter we may be more prone to brew another coffee or tea, instead. Be careful of increasingly leaning on caffeinated beverages, as they tend to wear you out physically and mentally at a certain point. They also tend to dehydrate you; so it’s important that you keep the water flowing as well.
Keep your Mindset in Check
Be vigilant against negative thought patterns. Maintain self-awareness, and be sure to notice when you start slipping into one of these negative patterns. Stop the negative thought in its tracks, and change the tone of the conversation. You should be able to talk to yourself as if you are your own best friend. Take a moment to talk to yourself in a positive tone, to offset any negativity that may have seeped in.
I have phrases that I tell myself—sometimes repeating the words like a mantra—depending on the day and my mood. I think of it like going to a mental gym. If I can work each day on saying something positive to myself, eventually it will be second nature. The more I work at it, the more effective it becomes.
Seek out Positive People and Experiences
This is true year round, but can be especially important this time of year. Take time to care for yourself. If you love reading, make time to read each day. Make time to see the friends in your life who support you and give you energy. Don’t let the cold get in the way of enjoying your days. Surround yourself with the positive energy that will get you through another day, another week, another winter. Don’t be afraid to reach out and find the help you need!
If you’re having trouble kicking the winter blues, you might benefit from mindset coaching. I’d love to help you shed the negative and harness your potential. Get in touch today!