Winter is a time when the weather is cold and often unpleasant and it’s the time when people tend to get sick more often. One reason why that happens is because they spend more time inside, by themselves. They also eat more heavy, fatty foods, rather than healthier salads and nutritious smoothies that highlight summer menus. It’s no wonder that we see an increase in mental health issues in the cold weather months. Luckily, there are certain things you can do to prevent mental health decline and here are just some of the ways to stay mentally healthier all winter long.
Get Enough Light
Light helps to improve mental health in several ways. In literature, light is associated with positivity and happiness. On a biological level, light helps you produce Vitamin D (sunlight). Since lower levels of Vitamin D have been associated with a greater risk of depression, it makes sense for everyone to try to get more light in the dark winter months (although it may not be an easy job!).
If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you tend to get depressed in winter. Getting enough light is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
To get enough sunlight to produce Vitamin D, you need to expose large areas of your body, such as your arms, legs, or back to the sun. This is, however, not practical in winter so you need to take other measures to get exposed to the light you need. A light therapy box can produce the mood-lifting light you are after and a vitamin D supplement will help you raise vitamin D levels in your blood which, in turn, will help you lower a risk of depression.
Eat Healthy Foods
Eating heavy, fatty, or sugary foods drags your body down during winter and you can re-energise your body and mind by eating healthier foods. Try to eat more vegetables and fruits and don’t forget to eat oily fish, ideally at least once a week. Oily fish such as salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Try not to over-consume carbohydrates (especially the heavily processed ones) as they won’t do much for your mental health.
Get the Right Amount of Sleep
For many people, winter is a time when they often snuggle up in bed early, or sleep in a little later. Too much sleep can be a sign of depression, but it can also increase depression as you hide from your activities, your troubles, and other people.
For people who have insomnia when they are depressed, there are several ways that can help them get enough sleep. A weighted blanket can help you sleep better and longer, especially if you tend to be restless and anxious when you’re trying to sleep. Drinking a nice cup of herbal tea before you go to bed can also help you to relax.
To sleep better at night, you should go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at your normal time every morning, even on weekends. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Stay on schedule as much as you can.
Exercise helps you stay physically healthier and mentally grounded. Unfortunately, people often slack off on exercise during the winter.
If you go to a gym, work with a personal trainer who can motivate you to keep working out regularly. You can have a lot of fun as you work out if you join a Zumba or group exercise class. Jogging or even just walking can give you a boost in energy and lighten your mood, especially if you do it in a natural setting.
Deal with Depression When It Happens
The signs of depression include hopelessness, helplessness, appetite and weight changes, insomnia or oversleeping, fatigue, feelings of guilt, pessimism, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in usual activities, sad feelings and suicidal thoughts. If you have SAD, some of these symptoms crop up in winter. Recognising the symptoms is the first step in dealing with your depression.
If you feel you have SAD or any other form of depression, it’s not a bad idea to talk to a mental health counsellor who will help you deal with this problem. In therapy, you can learn to change the way you think about your life and mental health. You can also develop healthier mental health habits and a stable schedule. Your counsellor can guide you in building a lifestyle that helps you avoid depression in the winter and throughout the year. To learn more about depression and how to deal with it check out the BetterHelp website.
In some ways, it’s much easier to be mentally healthy in summer than in winter. You have so many more opportunities for socialising, eating light, healthy foods, and living an active lifestyle. In winter, you have to be much more proactive to make those opportunities for yourself. Whether you have SAD, some other form of depression, or just a bad case of the winter blahs, you can take charge of your mental health in winter and every day of your life.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.