The weather outside may be frightful but your mental health doesn’t have to be!
Starting classes in January always seems like so much more of a chore than it does in September. The weather sucks, it’s dark and dreary, and everyone feels like a zombie.
The winter blues are no laughing matter. Stress, cold weather, and lack of sunlight all contribute to an overall feeling of sluggishness and lack of motivation. Despite these horrible feelings, there are ways of combating them to help you start the new year (and the new decade) on the right foot.
Here are our top suggestions to help you beat the winter blues:
1. Get outside
The worst part of winter is the miserably cold weather. No one wants to so much as walk to their cars or transit, let alone spend any extra time outside. But one of the biggest causes of dropped energy levels in the wintertime is the lack of sunlight. Getting yourself outside to take advantage of the few rays that you can when the sun is out will help make you feel better in the long run.
There are some awesome outdoor activities that are budget-friendly and don’t involve much commitment. If you’re a Lakeshore student, go for a quick walk around Colonel Samuel Smith Park and snap a pic of the Toronto skyline. Or, you could lace up those dusty skates and go skating at Nathan Philips Square. Not only are these two activities super relaxing, but you’ll also get a healthy hit of endorphins to blast those winter blues!
2. Get into the right mindset
Many Scandinavian countries have the lowest levels of the winter blues, despite enduring some of the harshest winters in the world. They have unlocked the key to happiness by embracing the ‘hygge’ mindset. In other words, they embrace the cold weather as a time to slow life down, spend more time in comfort and make time for family and friends. Self-pampering and seeing loved ones has a huge boost to your mental health.
3. Eat smart
This is likely not news to anyone, but your diet is strongly linked to your mood. I know when the weather is cold, all I crave is yummy (and unhealthy) comfort food. But unfortunately, if you suffer from the winter blues, unhealthy food is only going to make your mood worse.
There are tons of great food options that can lift your mood when temperatures dip! Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, complex carbohydrates like beans and legumes, and chocolate (yes, you read that right) are all great for keeping spirits high. Don’t forget to stock up on veggies and in-season fruit!
4. Consider light therapy
Studies have shown that people who struggle with the winter blues and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can experience significant reduction in symptoms from light therapy. Light therapy involves sitting next to a special lamp or “light box” which emits light at a wavelength simulating the sun. All you have to do is sit next to the lamp first thing in the morning (or shortly after waking up) for 30 minutes per day.
While they are a super effective treatment option, they can be a bit pricey, usually ranging from $50-$200. Keep an eye on review websites and Amazon for the best deals.
5. Add supplements to your mornings
Sometimes getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs isn’t straightforward. If you have a busy course load or work schedule, you’re probably stuck inside during the daylight hours. Regardless of your circumstances, you may want to consider adding supplements to your morning routine.
Vitamin D is normally produced by the body in response to sunlight. Since there are so few hours in the day to actually get sunlight, and no one is wearing bikinis in the winter, our bodies are desperately lacking vitamin D. Not only is vitamin D good for mood regulation, but it has a ton of other healthy benefits. Omega-3 supplements are also a great addition.
Before adding a supplement to your routine (especially if you are on any other medications) always check with your doctor!
6. Set yourself a modest goal
Have a passion project you’ve been meaning to take up? Want to read a certain number of books by the end of the semester? Do you have a semester GPA goal in mind?
People often feel more motivated when working toward a new goal. The key to this is making sure the goal is manageable enough to actually accomplish. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by choosing something too difficult. All this will do is make you feel like you failed, which could wreck your motivation – and your mental health – for the rest of the semester.
Start small and work your way up!
7. Never be afraid to ask for help
If you’ve tried everything on this list and nothing is helping, please consider speaking with your doctor about different options. Mental health affects all of us in different ways and there are lots of resources on-campus and off to help you! There is absolutely no need to suffer in silence. Lakeshore students will find Humber’s counselling services through the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre on the second floor of the Welcome Center. North campus and University of Guelph-Humber students can access counselling services on the 2nd floor of the LRC through the Student Wellness and Accessibility Center.
For more on sticking to your 2020 goals, check out how to actually stick to a workout routine in 2020