As the Canadian winter slowly creeps in, beating the winter blues will be a challenge for many of us. Experiencing mood shifts or feeling down and more lethargic can be a common response to the shorter and darker days of the winter season. But if these symptoms worsen and hinder your ability to enjoy life, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression experienced by two to three per cent of Canadians. Another 15 per cent will experience the winter blues, a milder form of SAD, which will leave them slightly depressed but still capable of living life without major disruptions.
Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, we hope these few tips can help you feel better this winter season:
A 2005 Harvard study delved into the effects of exercise on depression and has found that walking fast for 35 minutes a day five times a week, or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved mild to moderate symptoms of depression. A study conducted on the relation of light and exercise on seasonal depressive symptoms has found that participants who exercised under bright lights reported fewer seasonal depressive symptoms than those who exercised under small amounts of light.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine. According to Everyday Health, experts believe that laughter can counter depressive symptoms. On top of that, a 2013 study by the University of Missouri on the ways people can try to be happier found that listening to upbeat music has also drastically improved the mood of participants in the short-term and has a positive effect on them in the long run.
Author of The Good Mood Diet, Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, says that changing up your diet is not a bad idea for the winter. Kleiner recommends hot chocolate, using non-dutched, natural cocoa powder, which is high in heart-healthy and mood-boosting flavonoids. Combine it with fortified milk to provide you the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein and vitamin D to increase your serotonin levels to help you relax. Also try to include fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to help boost your mood.
The people you surround yourself with can affect your mood. So, spend more time with people who make you feel your best and lessen any time spent with people who irritate you or may provide a toxic social environment.
Hygge is a Danish term used to describe a quality of cosiness that creates a feeling of relaxation, contentment, indulgence and gratitude. Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the concept of hygge is about being kind to yourself, says Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute. Hyggeligt activities include practices that help you appreciate the present moment like reading, baking, listening to music or watching tv. This self-care practice can also have major health benefits when spent with others as social activities and gratitude for your relationships can help reduce stress and depression.
Whatever the season may be, we believe it is important for you to take care of your mental health. For more information and tips, discover six more ways to improve your mental health.