8 Simple Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

With short days and grey skies, the last few months of winter can cause a case of the winter blues. for many of us. Here in Vancouver specifically, this winter has been particularly daunting with the added weather extremes of heavy snowfall combating with weeks on end of rain. It’s enough to leave even the brightest of personalities a little faded.

With Spring in sight, here are some tips on how to make it through the rest of the season, in spite of the winter blues.

Get Outside

When the rain pours down and the icy streets encourage us to stay indoors, getting outside is actually a key strategy for challenging the winter blues. In Vancouver especially, we need to take every possible opportunity to soak in some Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to the experience of low mood in the winter months. Getting outside for even an hour each day may be just enough to boost your mood. Even on a cloud-filled day, being outdoors provides fresh air and activity to get your body moving. By getting outdoors you are able to break up your day and invest in self-care. You’ll find that when you come back inside you feel more alert, focused and refreshed. Spending time outdoors also bodes well for getting a restful sleep at night, so you can wake up more refreshed each day.

Spending time with friends, while be active are two ways to combat the winter blues.

Tip: Take advantage of your lunch break – Use 10-15 minutes of your lunch break to leave the office and walk around the block. In the winter it can feel like we leave home in the dark and return in the dark. A lunchtime walk will break this cycle.

Connect with Friends

While friendships seem to flourish in the summer, we tend to socialize less in the winter months. This can add to our sense of disconnection associated with the winter blues. It can be tempting to hibernate at home during the winter, safe from the rain and cold. Days turn into weeks and suddenly we find ourselves feeling isolated. By making a concerted effort to spend more time with friends, we can significantly reduce our sense of loneliness. Also, by engaging in an active social life, we add interesting events to our week that break up the monotony that is common during the winter months.

Tip: Take part in a low-intensity activity that gets you out in the world with friends – a walk along the sea wall or around the lake at Deer Lake Park, have friends over to watch a sporting event or the Oscars on TV or share a meal with friends. Take note of the friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and shoot them a text today!

Eat a Healthy Variety of Foods

During the winter months, it’s perfectly normal for our bodies to crave comforting foods. I’m all for eating for enjoyment, in addition to for health reasons. When we experience the winter blues, though, our motivation for cooking complete meals with a full variety of food groups can diminish and we may find ourselves relying on quick and innutritious foods.

Different foods provide different nutrients that our bodies need. Simple, but true. By including a full range of foods, we ensure that our bodies can maintain muscle when we’re less active and mentally focused. By taking the time to focus on creating balanced meals, we not only ensure we’re getting the nutrients we need to create serotonin and other feel-good neurotransmitters, but we also make an act that aligns with the statement, “I’m worth taking care of myself.”

Eating a well-balanced diet improves your ability to cope with the winter blues.

Tip: Visit the local indoor public market on the weekend, such as Granville Island Public Market or Lonsdale Quay Market. Pick up items to make a creative meal, and take the time to enjoy cooking a healthy meal. Dessert is also recommended 😉

Take Advantage of Daylight Hours

The days are significantly shorter during the winter, which can add to our experience of the winter blues. For this reason, it’s especially important to take advantage of the hours of daylight that we do have. Whenever possible, make plans for socializing, running errands and self-care during daylight hours. That may mean taking a walk after work to the grocery store or meeting a friend for coffee before heading home at the end of your day. However you make it work, by spending part of your day out and about during daylight, you’ll break up the cycle of operating in the dark much of the day.

Set Weekly Goals

Warmer weather just seems to go with checking things off a to-do list, DIY projects and crushing goals. The cold weather slows us down, and a lack of motivation is a tell-tale sign of the winter blues. To move past this, it is important to take some time to assess what you’d like to achieve. Making progress in any area of your life is encouraging and provides a sense of mastery. Your weekly goals need not be complex or over-ambitious. By setting small and easily achievable goals, you set yourself up for success that is a killer to low moods.

Tip: Look at your weekly calendar and pick one larger goal you’d like to achieve for the season. Then, break it down into small mini goals that you can work on throughout the week. For example, a large goal might be organizing your home. One week you might focus on tidying just one closet, the next might be organizing items to donate to charity. Slowly but surely the little goals will grow into a larger accomplishment

Want to learn more about the Dos and Don’ts of achieving your goals? Read our article here!

Limit Technology Time

Movie nights, gaming and quality time with our electronics can fill those long, cold winter hours. I won’t lie that there’s something comforting about my Monday night The Bachelor routine. Our increased technology time in the winter months, however, increase inactivity and zap our motivation. It can, therefore, be helpful to limit the number of hours and/or evenings that you allow yourself to engage with technology.

Limiting your technology time can decrease the winter blues.

Tip: Designate a specific night for watching TV or movies/gaming, enjoy it, and then make alternative plans for the rest of the week. You’ll find that you’re more productive and fulfilled when you engage in a variety of activities throughout the week. You may even find that you enjoy your quiet TV nights more when you’re watching your favourite shows, not just whatever is on

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

This is the section that always makes my clients groan. It’s as though we perpetually hate being told when to go to bed and wake up. Groan as you may, maintaining a consistent and sufficient sleep schedule is vital for battling the winter blues. This means settling in for bed by a reasonable hour and waking up at a similar time each morning, even on weekends. For many of us, this means getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Consistent with the experience of low mood, going to bed late and waking up late can contribute to difficulty getting up in the morning. If you set a schedule for yourself for the week and stick to it, you’ll find that your body will adjust and feel more alert when you start your day. This also contributes to your ability to be active and feel motivated to take on all the other recommendations listed here.

Tip: Take advantage of the sleep app on your smartphone that monitors your sleep quality. Within a few weeks, you’ll notice an increase in your sleep quality which should correspond with how you feel emotionally and physically. Also, download a blue light filter for your smartphone, computer, and tablet. This filter will enable you to use your devices in the evening without disrupting your sleep cycle. Game changer.

Stay Active

As mentioned earlier, our motivation is lower and our bodies have a tendency to want to slow down in the winter months. Bad news for dealing with the winter blues. As a result, we need to make a concerted effort to continue to be active throughout our days. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be too difficult. Some days being active may look like walking to the store instead of driving, taking on an Oxygen Yoga class at Moksha Yoga, or getting together with friends for a rainy day hike at Quarry Rock.

Simple, low-intensity exercise such as yoga helps beat the winter blues.

Tip: Check out your community’s recreation website.  There at many drop-in and weekly activities going on that allow you to be active, meet new people and stay dry and warm at the same time! Maybe this is the year you learn to play squash!

~ Meredith of Parallel Wellness

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Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

So you want to know more??

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Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

So you want to know more??

download free guide