Winter Blues

It’s still winter. Well for another week anyway. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s still quite dark early in the evening.

Getting out of bed is hard. The idea of exercising in the morning is not that appealing. Comfort food like chocolate, hot chips, anything with lots of carbs, and a roast meal with lots of gravy, are very appealing.

You’re not that motivated. The couch is a lovely place to spend the day. You’ll get around to doing all those things you should do later. Your patience and tolerance isn’t at it’s best.

Welcome to “the winter blues.”

Now let’s be clear what we mean by that.

In 1984, The National Institute of Mental Health in the USA found that some people have serious seasonal mood and behaviour changes. The term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) came into existence.

One theory why this occurs is that with less sunlight, the chemicals produced by the brain alter, and this can affect mood. People with SAD typically have low levels of serotonin and high levels of melatonin.  Serotonin helps reduce anxiety and depression. Melatonin helps you sleep.

In many parts of the world that experience “real” cold and long grey days, not the Australian version of cold, devices like light boxes are in high demand. You place them on your desk or in your room to get artificial light to help change your mood. They’re even called SAD light boxes!

Now before you decide that you suffer from SAD, and rush out to buy a SAD light box, you need to realise that it affects less than 5% of the population in the USA and Europe. In Australia, it’s estimated to be less than 1%.

So most of us don’t suffer from SAD; we just get a little more “blahh” during winter. 

Well what should we go when we become lethargic and want to indulge in all the things we know are bad for us?

A lot of it is self - discipline. There are some other things as well.

Vitamin D
You can get it from a capsule at the shop, or by going outside into sunlight. We are very fortunate in Australia that even in the depth of winter, we have quite a deal of sunlight. So go outside for a walk. Not only will you get vitamin D, you’ll also get fresh air and exercise.

Fish Oil

Omega 3 has many benefits, including reducing the effects of depression. Fish high in omega 3 include salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines.
If you’re going to get it in capsule form, look for good quality supplements.

Your diet
You have to learn to say “no.” It doesn’t mean that you can never have a pizza, or a mug of hot chocolate, or battered fish. It’s just about a balanced diet. It you don’t feel like cold salad, then steam some vegetables. Steaming keeps in the nutrients more than boiling. Make a healthy vegetable soup. Add some lentils for protein.

Exercise
Get outside and go for a brisk walk. You can do that with a jacket, scarf and hat. You don’t have to be in shorts and a tee shirt.

For those who don’t want to exercise outside, there are plenty of gyms, yoga and pilate studios around. 

Your mindset is critical though. It you see this as a hassle, as a chore you really don’t want to do but have to do, then there’s a really good chance you’ll find all sorts of excuses not to do it. So work out why it could be fun, why it could be something to look forward to, why it’s going to benefit you, and focus on that.

Embrace the benefits of winter
Winter isn’t all bad. There are some great things you can experience in winter that you can’t when it’s warm. You can put on your puffy jacket, colourful scarf, and stripy beanie and go to a cafe, sit outside and enjoy a hot mug of coffee. 

Maybe you can go skiing for a few days. 

Or enjoy being indoors by finally reading that book that you promised yourself you’d read when you had time.

The key is to plan to do things.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you eat something that’s fatty, or you can’t be bothered going out, or don’t feel like catching up with friend, don’t beat yourself up. So long as you don’t behave like that all the time, and start getting miserable, there’s nothing wrong. We can’t be good all the time.

So enjoy the last remaining days winter. The winter blues? Blue can be a nice peaceful colour.