The holidays are long behind us and dreary January is affecting our mood — and our mood is bleak.
The lack of sunlight, and thus the decrease of vitamin D, the nutrient that helps maintain our health and prevent disease, throughout the winter can affect our mental and physical health.
The Canadian Mental Health Association notes 15 per cent of the general population has experienced the winter blues, “which can include changes in appetite, lethargy, and low mood.”
“The reduced level of sunlight during the cold winter months can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock), which can lead to a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) and lead to feelings of depression,” Toronto-based certified holistic nutritionist Carley Nadine tells HuffPost Canada.
But it’s important to remember that the winter blues is a separate syndrome from seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year that affects about two per cent of the population.
So with all of these challenges to overcome, is there a way to beat the winter blahs and boost our mood? You betcha — here are four simple tips to put into practice this season.
WATCH: Must-do activities to add to your winter bucket list. Story continues below.
Go outside even if you don’t feel like it
We get it — the idea of spending the next few months outdoors shivering in the cold sounds terrible, but trust us, some thermal undies (we like the Heat Tech collection from Uniqlo) and thick socks can help block the wind and even make winter *gasp* enjoyable!
Once you’re dressed with the below-zero temperatures in mind, there are plenty of seasonal activities to enjoy. Outdoor skating rinks and trails (Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, the under-the-Gardiner trail at the Bentway in Toronto, Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, and Robson Square in Vancouver are some local faves), tobogganing, and snowshoeing are all fun ways to experience winter.
“Being exposed to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally but it also can also contribute to physical wellbeing, reducing heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of the stress hormone cortisol,” Nadine says.
Exercise is a vital way to keep the winter blues at bay, as it helps reduce stress, boosts your energy, and increases your mental and physical health.
Enjoy the cold, don’t resist it
Just as we flock to parks and beaches in the summer to bask in the sun, why not celebrate the cosy season with simple activities targeted to enjoy the weather rather than resist it?
When planning your weekend, arrange the outdoor errands earlier in the day while it’s light out, and then gather family or friends for some cozy crafts, pizza making, dinner, or a movie night where you can settle into the sensation of being warm while the snow falls outside.
Spending downtime with loved ones can inspire feelings of gratitude, and can help lessen the impact the grey season has on our mental health.
Who doesn’t love easy tips to help lift your mood? Check out simple, everyday habits you can do below. Story continues below slideshow.
Warm up yogi style
Practising yoga in a heated room “can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a more challenging workout than doing the same poses in a lower temperature,” according to Healthline. A 2014 study found that just one hot yoga class can get your heart pumping at the same rate as a brisk walk.
If you have any concerns about doing hot yoga, check in with your doctor before you take a class.
Spice up your brew
Whether you’re a java junkie, a cider fan, or a kid-at-heart lover of hot chocolate, hot drinks are wonderful at warming you up from the inside out.
Sofia da Silva, a holistic nutritionist and founder of Raiz, a company that makes plant-based coffee alternative drinks, suggests adding warming spices to your winter bevvy, even if it’s a cold smoothie.
Other herbs and spices that can warm you up are cinnamon (delicious when sprinkled on top of hot chocolate and apple cider), which can boost your concentration, memory, and attention, and rosemary (delicious in soups, stews, and chilis), which can help calm the nerves.
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