Today is Blue Monday, which is apparently the saddest day of the year. First of all, you should know that this day was all made up by a travel company back on 2005 as a part of a marketing campaign to boost travel bookings. Did it work? I have no clue. What I do know is that “Blue Monday” is not backed up by science, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from jumping on the bandwagon to sell something today, slapping Blue Monday in the promo somewhere.
While Blue Monday is a myth, the winter blues ARE absolutely real. And it definitely lasts more than 24 hours.
The winter blues are quite common and if you live in Canada, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re more tired this time of the year, a little moodier, eating more comfort food, and you’re generally feeling.. well, blah.
Some even suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those that suffer from this type of depression in the winter months have stronger symptoms that may interfere with function at home, work, and/or relationships. Signs you may have SAD include loss of energy, lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy, isolation from friends and family, struggling with focus, and oversleeping.
*If you feel your depressive symptoms are deeper than just a case of the winter blues, it is always advised to seek the help from a trusted medical professional*
The good news is that there are many ways to boost your mood over the cold and dreary winter months:
If the sun is out (even just a little bit), take advantage of every opportunity to expose yourself to natural sunlight. Go for a walk, go skating, skiing, build a snowman with the kids, throw snowballs at your spouse (ha!), whatever you like! Being outside, in natural sunlight is the best cure for the winter blahs as it will boost production of serotonin and your overall mood
2. Light Therapy
Seasonal affective disorder can be treated using light therapy, which involves exposing yourself to light of a certain frequency from a special light box to mimic sunlight. This therapy in particular is highly effective for those who suffer from SAD.
3. Vitamin D
Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. Many of us have less than optimal levels of vitamin D, especially those of us who live in areas that do not get adequate sunlight between November and March. Taking a vitamin D supplement during these months is also beneficial for bone health, immunity, and heart health.
4. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in brain function and recent studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in maintaining a healthy emotional balance
5. Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins are necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and taking a B complex can be very useful for alleviating depression or anxiety over the winter. Note, if you are going to take B vitamins, a complex is necessary to ensure the vitamins work together as a team.
Exercise – whether walking, swimming, or any activity that you enjoy is often referred to as nature’s antidepressant. Exercise boosts serotonin and endorphins which both affect mood. Bonus, exercise outdoors (yup, even in the winter – just have to bundle up!) for fresh air and an extra dose of vitamin D
7. Embrace the Coziness
Instead of just “getting through” or merely tolerating the colder months, why not illuminate the long dark winter with candlelight, wool socks, and cozy blankets for an instant mood boost. Slip into your comfiest leggings and sip hot chocolate while watching the snow fall from a cozy nook in the living room. Or curl up in bed with a book and a warm winter duvet. Embracing winter coziness will not only make you happier, it will fuel your mind, body and soul
8. Self Care
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many of us jump right into work after “vacation” (come on, we both know the words “Christmas” and “vacation” don’t actually belong together unless you’re debt free, on a beach with zero responsibilities or obligations). After two weeks of literally giving all your energy away to everyone around you, it’s no wonder we’re feeling a little moodier and tired around this time of the year. Remember to take care of your individual needs, whether that means taking a personal day off, meeting a friend for coffee, date nights with your partner or just 30 minutes of “me” time throughout the week to breathe, relax and unwind.
Once the cooler weather hits, many of us start ditching salads and smoothies in favour of other foods. Now I don’t know about you, but carbs and sugar make me instantly happier, so I tend to crave them around this time of the year 😉 Listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening to your body, and indulging, but make sure you’re also filling up on nutritious foods that will keep your energy levels up. Include lots of cooked, warm foods to elevate your mood and support the body’s need for heat and protection from the colder environments. Think roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts, soups and stews made with carrots, potatoes and parsnips, or stir-fried vegetables with broccoli and bok choy.
10. Find Inspiration
Follow social media accounts that genuinely make your heart glow, read inspiring books that ignite your spark, listen to podcasts that boost your confidence, or download apps that send motivational quotes that make you feel uplifted each morning. You can also try making a vision board, browse through nature photos online, read blogs written by people who have overcome adversity, and of course, find inspiration within yourself by trying something new or expressing yourself creatively.