Fighting the Winter Blues
Lack of light, warmth can darken your mood
Every year around this time, most people begin dreaming of warmer weather. The beach, bare feet and lots more sun are the wish while in reality, the lack of light and warmth can bring on mild depression.
However, there are many ways to beat the winter blues by making the most of your surroundings.
Marietta resident Kathleen Harmon, 39, gets together once a month with her pals and knits. The ladies have been meeting at coffee shops to knit for nearly a year now.
“It’s therapeutic and an excuse to get out of the house,” she said. “I honestly look forward to winter. You can lay around your house, and knit, but not feel guilty about wasting a pretty day.”
Betsy Kalter, 69, of Marietta also enjoys knitting but just bought some new snow boots to accommodate her winter walks.
“I love getting out and walking, despite the harsh weather,” said Kalter. “My husband always said there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. As long as you’re bundled up, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.”
According to an article in Time Magazine, walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improves symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Walking gives you an excuse to get up and get out of the house. Natural light is also good for fighting signs of depression.
“My husband and I try to walk once, sometimes twice a day. Personally, I think it helps,” said Kalter.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It usually begins and ends at about the same time every year. For most people with SAD, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Making yourself take a walk when the temperatures are low isn’t easy, but the benefits are bigger than that. According to Time, spending time outside– even if it is very chilly– can actually reduce symptoms of SAD, improve focus and lower stress levels.
Michael Uhl, 50, of Williamstown, has been an avid bike rider for years. He said regardless of the weather change, he still takes his bike out for miles and miles at a time.
“You just wear more clothing when it’s cold,” he said. “Riding my bike gets me out of the house and relaxes me. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Friends of the Blennerhassett Bicycle Club is an organization in the Mid-Ohio Valley that has events year round. In the winter months, they participate in parades, races and joy rides. The club is open to anybody.
“I advise people to be a part of the Blennerhassett Bike Club,” said Uhl. “It’s a way to meet people and stay active even during the cold weather.”
Did you know being active in cold weather actually burns more calories? In a 2012 study, researchers found that cold weather seemed to set fat into motion, and that simply being cold could cause significant calorie burn.
Brittani Wright, 21, of Marietta enjoys snowboarding in her free time.
“This gets me out and you really don’t get cold when you’re going down the hill,” she said.
She’s right. According to experts, adrenaline can keep you warm even during the coldest weather. Everything happens so fast during an adrenaline rush, your breathing and your heart rate will jump suddenly. Your blood pressure will also go up, and you may even start to sweat.
Adult coloring books and reading are also proven to relax some during the winter months. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is making and creating artwork used to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.”
“The best way I have found to break the winter blues is doing creative stuff,” said Josh Adams, 24, of Vienna. “Drawing, painting, music, etc.”
Just like meditation, coloring, drawing, painting and other forms of expressing creativity also allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate any anxiety.
Lastly, spending time with family, friends and loved ones also helps keep our minds off of the harsh winter weather.
“I’ve always had fun getting together with friends and baking or something,” said Waterford resident Ashley Wells, 33. “It’s the best thing to do to avoid being bored inside.”
Tips for beating the winter blues
– When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication.
– Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety.
– Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.
– A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improves symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
– In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved a participant’s mood in both the short and long term.
– Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.
– Ladling out soup at the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction.
– Spending time outside can improve focus, reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and lower stress levels.
Outdoor activities for
adults in the winter
– Go ice skating. Ohio University in Athens has an ice skating rink that is open daily to the public.
– Build a winter bonfire and make s’mores.
– If you have the equipment, go winter camping. If that’s too ambitious, check out your state parks for cabins.
– Take your dog for a walk. It’s one of the benefits of having and owning a dog.
– Go skiing.
– Go sledding.
– Build a fort and have a snowball fight with your children or buy a snow block maker and build an igloo.
– Take a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and sit outside on your front porch swing.
– Shovel paths in the snow.
– Feed the birds or go birdwatching. Make your own bird feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed.
– Go on a winter picnic. Take blankets, sandwiches and hot soup in a thermos.
– Head out on a photo expedition to take pictures of the winter landscape.