When 5 p.m. finally rolls around, it’s dark and cold outside. When we get home there’s dinner to be made and laundry to be done, but all we can think about is curling up with a good book until we drift off to sleep. It’s natural for our energy to dwindle in the winter, say experts, since our sleep and wake cycles are regulated by light. As daylight fades, our brain produces melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy. When you wake up, it may still be dark outside and when you get home it’s dark again making for lethargic mornings and evenings. A feeling of constant darkness is a prime culprit in the development of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by fatigue, depression, and weight gain. Whether you’re experiencing more extreme symptoms or just a general malaise here are a few tips to keep your spirits and energy up during the winter doldrums.
Reach for the light: Studies show that light therapy, where a patient sits in front of a light box for several minutes, can be a powerful tool for beating depression. “Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications, so I think efficacy is of comparable magnitude,” said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, lead author in a clinical trial published in The Archives of General Psychiatry which studied the impacts of light exposure. The treatment works by targeting depression-associated neurotransmitter systems that regulate serotonin and dopamine. Work with a physician to schedule a light therapy appointment or buy your own Happy Light made by Verilux.
Get the blood pumping: Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Doing so releases endorphins which are natural pain killer and mood boosters. Try a form of exercise you actually enjoy such as taking a brisk walk, a dance class or hopping in the pool. You can also break your exercise up throughout the day in 10 minute increments. Taking the stairs at work, or getting outside during your lunch break are great ways to sneak in a little extra activity.
Tackle that project: Perhaps you’ve been wanting to learn how to knit or pickle your own vegetables. Maybe it’s finishing that scrapbook or starting a new book. Make time to shake things up by setting some goals this winter. Starting something you’ve been wanting to do and seeing it through to completion is a great way to boost mood and get energized about the next item on your to do list.
Eat less, more: We’ve all over indulged and then paid the price by feeling bloated, tired, and maybe a little guilty. Eating too much makes it hard to maintain your get-up-and-go mentality. Instead, try to maintain healthy blood sugar levels this holiday season by eating smaller meals every three hours. Include protein, complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or brown rice and healthy fats. You’ll feel better throughout the day and potentially drop pounds.
Drink up: Not only can staying hydrated help you stave off sickness, and beat dry skin this winter, getting your eight glasses can also get your blood moving and improve energy levels. Consider naturally energizing drinks such as mate and green tea which also offer heart-healthy antioxidants.