Winter can be a great time filled with crisp air, different outdoor sports, and comfy clothes. It can also be a season where you might feel cooped up and uninspired. Too many days like that can lead to a case of the winter blues. You may not feel like doing anything.
Don’t sink into the habit of being non-productive just yet. Shaking up your routine can effectively kick-start your mood and get your creative juices flowing again. The great news is that it doesn’t take much to bounce back. Give these seven tips a try, and you just might be able to kiss the winter blues goodbye.
1. Turn On the Lights
During the winter, the more light exposure you can get the better. It’s a great way to battle the blues. In addition, both natural light and sun lamps keep your body’s production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) from getting too high. That means you’ll have more energy at your fingertips.
A lightbox can make your room and your mood feel sunny on overcast days. They also help even out your sleep-wake cycle. Lightbox bulbs produce 20-times more light than regular ones while keeping UV rays to a minimum. Choose one with at least 10,000 lux and use it for 30 minutes in the mornings. It will add a little oomph to your day.
For years I have a little secret that has helped me with depression—the type that gets to a person on other days, even when the sun is shining. I look out the window with eyes toward the sun. I have my eyes wide open and look up, letting the sunlight shine in the bottom part of my eye—then I look down and let the sunshine flood in the top of my eyes. This gives immediate relief from exhaustion or depression. I also call this my “light therapy.”
2. Get Physical
Working out is famously effective in reducing your stress and boosting your energy. So getting exercise during the winter months is super important. If you’re not already active, build up to 30-60 minutes of exercise five days a week. Toggle between aerobic, strength training, and stretching.
For the days when you don’t have a 30-minute block to devote to exercise, try the 10-10-10 method. Take three 10-minute walks during the day—every active minute adds up. Get outside as much as you can. Soak up the daylight to get all the benefits mentioned above.
3. Write It All Down
If you’ve ever kept a journal, you know it can be fun. But, if you’re feeling lackluster, it can also be helpful. It can be writing, drawing, painting, or playing music. The important thing is doing it daily or weekly and keeping a record of it.
If you choose writing, try these options to boost your mood and inspire your productivity. First, make a daily Top 5 or 10 list of things you’re grateful for. Trade-in your “to-do” list for a “things accomplished” list (talk about focusing on the positive!). Or go freeform and simply write what you’re thinking for roughly three pages. You may find it helps you work through a few things that bug you.
4. Pep It Up
It’s dark when you wake up. It’s dark way before you go to sleep. Staying energized this time of year isn’t the easiest thing. You can perk things up, though, by livening up your workspace during the day. You could even bring some pep to those around you with a few small changes.
If you have a motivational calendar, don’t keep it to yourself. Instead, take the inspiring little notes (yes, like a fortune cookie) and leave copies on your coworkers’ desks. Sharing some positive thoughts will make you feel more upbeat.
If you think certain fragrances are uplifting, try lighting a different scented candle every day. Use scented oils if your office has a no-candle policy. Just be respectful. Find out if any of your colleagues are sensitive to particular smells.
5. Protect “You” Time
When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to forgo your hobbies in favor of a snuggly blanket on the couch. There are some days that simply call for your slippers and hot cocoa. Just don’t let it be every day. Be sure to schedule some “you” time on the calendar.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but you do need to block it off. Seeing your hobby pop up in your daily or weekly planner makes you more likely to commit to it. So dust off the piano, pick up your paintbrushes, or pull the wok out of the cabinet. Whatever your passion is, don’t procrastinate. Don’t make up an excuse. Just do it.
6. Eat Healthy
Seriously, eating healthy food options should already be on your radar. It’s such an essential part of dodging the winter slump and being productive, though, that it’s worth reminding you. The cold weather sets the perfect stage for comfort food cravings. You haven’t forgotten the holidays yet, have you? Those foods can make you feel sluggish.
Instead, really dig into some healthy food choices. Look for nibbles with omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Add more winter veggies, like carrots or other root vegetables, to your plate. Load up on fruits rich in vitamin C. All these foods can boost your energy level and battle the winter blues. One quick note—if you’re vitamin deficient, talk with your doctor about a good supplement.
7. Turn Up the Music
Remember the days when you’d crank up your favorite tunes? Maybe you danced around your room and sang into your hairbrush. Give it all another shot! At the very least, you’ll enjoy listening to your go-to music again.
Adding music to your morning routine can get you pumped for class or work. Or perhaps you’d instead shrug off the day’s stresses with an evening dance party in your kitchen. Either way, shaking your groove thing will boost your mood and your energy level.
Winter doesn’t have to be a time when you give in to hibernation. Instead, focus on a few changes to your daily routine. It can help you turn the cold months into a more light-hearted time filled with accomplishments.
By Deanna Ritchie