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The Wintertime Blues? Or Something More?

If the cold days and long nights of January and February are affecting your mood, here are some ways you can fight back and bring on the happy!

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So, a confession. I really don’t like winter.

I mean, really don’t like it. It’s cold.  It’s grey. It’s dark.

 But that’s not the confession.  The confession is that I wish I didn’t dislike it so strongly.  My friend Liz joyfully greets the cooler weather, bundles up, and keeps on with her running and outdoor adventures.  How awesome is that?

 Now, we can’t all greet winter like Liz does, but that also doesn’t mean we have to suffer for 4-5 months each year.  So other than complaining to each other, what can we do to fight back against the wintertime blues?

 1. Keep moving. Well, now here’s a shock—a Postcard from me that recommends activity!  I know, I know.  But really, even though making yourself into a human burrito on the couch every night feels wonderful, that inactivity is going to catch up with you.  Hard as it is in the cold, keep going to Jazzercise or yoga class. Hit the gym and lift some weights. Better still—go with a friend, so that you get both activity and companionship.  Those activity benefits of endorphins and better sleep are critical in the winter.  In short: move first, self-burrito second.

2. Up your eating game. I love, really love, soup and bread in the winter.  Nothing feels better than being warm down to your toes with a great soup or chili.  Which is terrific, as long as you’re filling your stews with root vegetables, lean meats, and/or other lean proteins (like beans). Have you tried thickening your soup with cauliflower instead of flour?  Or subbing out some of the white potatoes for sweet potatoes?  Why not give it a try?  And how about adding a salad, along with the soup and bread? Healthy choices all around!

3. Find some sunshine.  Winter in the Midwest can be pretty grey, but there are sunny (albeit cold) days.  Even if you can’t bring yourself to go for a walk in January, go stand by the window and soak up whatever sun you can.  Not only will the light and warmth lift your spirits, you’ll be providing your body the chance to make critical Vitamin D.  Not enough sunshine coming in your window?  Consider investing in a light box and enjoying some simulated sun.

4. Supplement your Vitamin D.  It’s possible that you won’t be able to absorb enough sunlight in the winter to make sufficient Vitamin D.  If that’s the case, you may need to go buy it.  Vitamin D supplements are widely available and easy to tolerate.  Even if you only take it from November – March, give it a shot!

5.  Hang out with Liz. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that spending time with people who grouse about the cold and dark is just going to put you in a worse mood.  Conversely, if you can find some people with positive attitudes and optimistic outlookss—even in winter—you’re going to be better off.  So while I’d like to be your friend, you’re probably better off finding the Liz in your life and spending time with him/her until the crocus bloom.

6.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  A lot of us may grouse about the colder weather and shorter days, but for some people, winter brings more serious challenges in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Less sunshine and shorter days can cause our bodies to make less serotonin and melatonin, which can result in both depressive symptoms and difficulty sleeping (what a great combo!).  While many of us joke about struggling with winter, if you think you may have SAD, take it seriously and talk with your physician or mental health provider. 

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