Ten Top Mood Boosters for Winter Wellness
Winter can be a gloomy time for some – the dark days and cold weather may give way to the winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is the technical term for being down in the dumps during wintertime. It can show itself as mood changes, low mood, irritability and lethargy. It usually happens as the days get shorter and there is less light that you encounter during the day.
Although authorities can’t agree about whether SAD actually exists, the truth is that many of us can feel a little low when the skies are grey and dark. Even if you’re a little low this wintertime, try our most popular mood boosters to help you feel winter wonderful!
1. Rise with the sun
A regular sleep pattern is important when it comes to a healthy mood, particularly when it comes to SAD. 1So rather than sleeping in, think about going to bed early and rising with the sun. Or, if it's dark when you wake up, try something called a 'dawn simulator', a device that slowly brightens the lights in your bedroom making it easier to get out of bed. During the day, make sure you get some winter sun rays, too; this helps your body to produce the chemicals it needs to maintain a regular sleep pattern.
2. Get your blood pumping
Exercise is an important mood booster. Only 35 minutes of fast walking per day five times a week, or 60 minutes three times a week, has been shown to improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. 2 Walking, as well as jogging, yoga, pilates or strength-based weight training are all good options as are team sports.
3. Peak with protein
Don't ditch your healthy diet in winter, even though carbohydrates and sugar may be looking especially tempting. As well as choosing a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and wholegrains, make sure you're getting a good amount of protein every day.
Protein is made up of amino acids and these help your body produce the hormones responsible for a healthy mood. Some supplements which contain amino acids have even been found to reduce symptoms of depression. 3
4. Make time for yourself
Winter is a wonderful invitation for introspection. So, this year, feed your emotional wellbeing by doing some of those things that make you happy but you never seem to have time to do. This might be taking a long bath, enjoying a book by the fire or cuddling up with a loved one or pet. Give yourself permission to enjoy that time for yourself and enjoy a retreat from the outside world from time to time.
5. Grow, grow, grow
Plants are wonderful mood-enhancers. Growing and nurturing indoor plants can also be very therapeutic. Choose a low-light loving peace lily or English ivy, as these plants are also helpful for filtering the air of chemicals and off-gases from furniture. 4
6. Turn on the tunes
Upbeat music can really lift you - research shows it can significantly improve both short and long-term mood. 5 So, blast out your favourite tunes. It's even better for your mood and immune system if you sing along, 6 so go for it!
7. Plan your next holiday
Dreaming of warm, sunny days filled with salty sea-air? Now might be the right time to plan your next trip. Happiness has been shown to increase after booking a holiday because it gives you something to look forward to. 7 Fiji here we come!
8. Give back
Consider volunteer work to lift those winter spirits and connect with people in your local community. Spending time helping those in need may improve satisfaction and, in turn, mental health. Whether it's working in the local community garden, serving food at a shelter or walkng puppies at the nearby pound, there are plenty of good causes out there that could do with a helping hand.
9. Set a goal
Right now is a great time to start goal-planning for the rest of the year. Whether they are related to fitness or weight-loss, financial or even taking up a new hobby or two, think about what you would like to accomplish by setting a goal or two.
Then, break it up into achievable chunks, such as a weight-loss of 1kg a week/month. Work towards your goals and every time you achieve a mini-goal, celebrate your success. Allow yourself to feel good about what you achieved and this will help you feel good about yourself - you deserve it!
10. Ask for help
It is normal to feel a little low during the winter months. But if the winter blues don't go away, or you feel you're not coping - or if loved ones say so - don't be afraid to ask for help. Speak to a healthcare professional or get in contact with an organisation such as beyondblue (beyondblue.org.au) or the Black Dog Institute (blackdoginstitute.org.au) for resources and support. Get the support you deserve - get it for you and for those who love you.
Wishing you a winter full of wellness!
1. Raabus C. Seasonal affective disorder: tips to avoid SAD and beat the winter blues. Viewed 9 May 2018, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-15/tips-to-beat-seasonal-affective-disorder-this-winter/8694340
2. Harvard letter. Exercise is an all natural treatment to fight depression. Viewed 9 May 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression
3. Shaheen Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutr Jr 2008;7:2.
4. Riley ER, Robbins S, Wilson DR (ed). The best air-purifying plants for your home. Viewed 9 May 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/air-purifying-plants#more-tips
5. Wall T. Trying to be happier works when listening to upbeat music, according to MU research. University of Missouri, 2013. Viewed 9 May 2018, https://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2013/0514-trying-to-be-happier-works-when-listening-to-upbeat-music-according-to-mu-research/
6. Fancourt D, Williamon A, Carvalho LA. Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers. e-Cancer Medical Science 2016;10(631):1-13.
7. Nawijn J, Marchand MA, Veenhoven R, et al. Vacationers happier, but most not happier after a holiday. App Res Qual Life 2010;5(1):35-47.