Longer nights and colder weather can take their toll on your mood and energy levels, especially if you live in a seasonal climate. If you find yourself feeling sluggish, craving comfort foods, and wanting to stay in bed during the winter months, guess what? That’s totally normal! Many people feel blue around the winter holidays or get into a slump after the fun and festivities have ended. Keep reading to learn more about natural seasonal changes in the brain and body and how to beat the winter blues with healthy habits.
What Does “Winter Blues” Mean?
Many people feel a little moody during the winter time when the days get shorter and the temperatures drop—what some call the “winter blues.”
It’s nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, it’s common to feel sluggish, and tired, and sleep more than usual simply because the sun retires early. It’s natural to want to hibernate in the winter months when sunlight is scarce and the weather gets cold.
When you think about animals and how our ancient ancestors lived, it makes sense that we would slow down during the winter months. We’ve evolved to respond to the seasonal changes of nature. You may experience fatigue or sleepiness. It’s also common to crave comfort foods and gain weight like our ancestors did to prepare for icy temperatures and scarce access to food.
How to Overcome Winter Blues
Follow these tips to stay chipper during the chilly months. If you feel sad in the winter, these healthy habits will help beat the winter blues. Just because the seasons have changed, doesn’t mean you have to feel low all winter long.
Get Quality, Deep Sleep
Seasonal changes mean longer nights and shorter days. This can naturally affect sleep patterns. Less sunlight affects our sleep-wake cycle, making us want to sleep longer. Daylight savings can also interrupt sleep patterns: turning the clocks back requires your body to adjust to a new schedule. That makes deep, quality sleep even more important during the winter months in order to feel rejuvenated and energized.
Here are a few tips for healthy sleep:
- Avoid screen time 30 minutes before bed, as the bright lights of a screen can further interrupt your sleep cycles and overstimulate the brain before bed.
- Use guided meditation, soothing ambient sounds, or sleep hypnosis to ease you to bed.
- Take time to wind down after work before bed, so you feel more relaxed. Sleep consistency is key to maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule so your body knows naturally when to fall asleep and wake up with energy in the morning.
- Take sleep-soothing herbal supplements, like melatonin and L-theanine to support a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Remember: many of us sleep more than usual during the winter. So try not to beat yourself up if you feel more tired during the winter. Give yourself the rest that you need, so you can wake up positive and energized.
Be Gentle on Yourself
It may feel tempting to power on even when you feel tired, especially during the busy holiday season. And while life responsibilities don’t disappear during the winter, you can still give yourself the time and space to rest and take breaks. Your energy levels might drop during this time of year. Listen to your body. Make sure to set aside some time to rest, on the weekends or outside of work hours.
Practice Gratitude and Positive Thinking
The brain is a dynamic, flexible system. It can change and rewire itself—a concept known as neuroplasticity. You can literally change your mind by redirecting the neural pathways in the brain, paving the way for positive thinking.
We can use neuroplasticity to break negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. When you feel low, try to shift the focus to a more positive frame of mind. Focus on the blessings in your life by practicing gratitude daily. Make it a habit to think of three blessings in your life each day. This can help maintain a positive perspective, even on the darkest days.
Set Aside Time for Exercise
Cold weather and longer nights often make it difficult to get exercise when you can’t go outside comfortably. But, exercise can do wonders when it comes to boosting our moods. So even on cold, gloomy days, try to fit in some exercise.
Aim for 30 minutes of movement each day. You could create a morning routine, like stretching or walking the dog, to help you feel energized early in the day.
Get creative! Exercise indoors with at-home workouts, play with your kids or pets, or even dance in your living room to your favorite songs. This will increase “feel good” neurotransmitters and help keep your spirits bright.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
The winter months mean the holiday season for most. Think of this as an opportunity to reconnect with the people you cherish. Try to set aside time at least once a week to talk or visit with your friends and family. Spend time with those who make you feel safe, supported, and lift your mood. Having this supportive circle can help keep your spirits high when you have the seasonal blues.
Do Something that Brings You Joy
You can help beat the winter blues by intentionally setting aside time to do one thing you love each day. Do more of what makes you smile!
Fun activities, like reading, painting, puzzles, or playing an instrument, are especially helpful, as they support cognitive function. Try these brain games for adults to keep you sharp and entertained when snowed in.
Remember, seasons don’t last forever. Think of the winter months as an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and redirect. Colder weather means more time indoors, a chance to catch up on much-needed rest, practice meditation, cuddle with loved ones and pets, and spend time on our favorite hobbies.
Be gentle with yourself and listen to your body. This will ensure a healthier, happier season, even when you feel a little low from the winter blues.
Don’t forget to rest when you need to. Take NeuroQ Sleep Now mint oral strips to support a healthy sleep-wake cycle. They are infused with melatonin and L-theanine, so you can fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed naturally, without the grogginess.