9 Ways to Brighten Your Mood this Winter
Does your mood seem to take on a chill as winter approaches? Temperatures drop to freezing, skies are gray for days, and it looks like bedtime before dinnertime even rolls around.
If so, you aren’t alone! Many of us experience some blah and bluesy feelings that come with a change in seasons. But that doesn’t mean you just have to live with them! Here are 9 ways to find brightness through the winter doldrums.
1. Get outside
Yes, it can be hard to put forth the effort to brave the cold, but science has proven that even short walks outside can lift up your mood. So, layer up, bundle up, and warm up with a walk, jog, or hike outside. Need incentive? Grab your headphones and cue up a podcast or walk to your favorite coffee shop for something warm to keep you going.
2. Light therapy
Since limited sun exposure is a primary factor in winter’s gloom, exposing yourself to artificial light can help fill the void. This practice is referred to as light therapy and involves daily exposure to bright artificial light from a light box which produces a light much brighter than standard household bulbs. It is typically recommended to use a light box daily for at least 20 minutes, ideally in the morning.
3. Fill your calendar
When winter cools your cheer, it can be tempting to just curl up inside for a little winter hibernation. While this can certainly be comforting, try to keep things to look forward to on the calendar. Schedule lunch with a friend, a movie night at home, or a few outdoor walks on days that look a bit sunnier. Having some scheduled plans, even if just for yourself, can help keep you moving and motivated through the otherwise long weeks of winter.
4. Supplement strategically
Yes of course nutrition matters! Certain nutrients have been shown to help support mood and turn your mind to the bright side:
- Vitamin D: It’s well-known that vitamin D plays a critical role in our moods, but your body tends to make less vitamin D in the winter due to limited sunlight. Just about everyone can benefit from a vitamin D supplement, especially in wintertime, and our algae-derived D3 + K2 Complex is a win-win way to promote both mood and immune wellness.
- Omega 3s: Omega 3 fatty acids are well known for their brain-nourishing benefits, so it may not surprise you that they have been shown to support mood too. Find them in fatty fish like salmon, or consider a supplement derived from algae if fish is off the table.
- B complex: The whole B vitamin family is foundational for upholding a healthy mood and daily energy. B vitamins are abundant in meat, poultry, and eggs, and our Super B Complex can help fill in any gaps. Keep in mind that B vitamins are water soluble and must be consumed daily.
5. Work up a sweat
It has been well established that a regular exercise routine is a great way to sustain a balanced mind and mood. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recommends it for this reason! Exercise enhances the body’s production of mood-boosting hormones serotonin and dopamine. In addition to promoting physical health, exercise also boosts energy and creates feelings of accomplishment – feelings that fuel an overall sense of well-being in spite of darker days.
6. Avoid or limit alcohol and sugar
When you’re feeling down, sugar can be a tempting treat. After all, it has an appealing taste that excites the brain and provides energy in the short term. But that’s the problem, since these benefits are short-lived and often followed by a crash as dramatic as the spike. Plus, habitual consumption of excess sugar can have other deleterious effects on your health that ultimately impact your mood.
Alcohol is another substance that can be tempting for some during the dark winter months. While sugar brings things up, alcohol brings things down. While a small drink can foster warmth and relaxation, its dampening effects can be a slippery slope that brings you lower than you started. Of course, excess alcohol affects your health in other negative ways too, so it’s wise to limit your consumption no matter what time of year it is!
7. Incorporate mindfulness
It can be hard to look inward and be present when feeling down, but incorporating a mindfulness practice can help soothe stress and foster gratitude in your daily life. Try meditation, yoga (movement doubles up on your benefits!), or a gratitude journal.
8. Love your gut
Have you ever heard that the gut is the second brain? It’s true that the gut has its own unique division of the nervous system that communicates with the brain. And as a primary part of that feedback loop, the gut microbiome (the collection of bacteria in the gut) can influence a wide range of behavior. It’s pretty fascinating and researchers are just scratching the surface of how it all works!
What we do know is that a healthy gut supports a healthy brain, so give your gut some love with fermented foods or a good probiotic supplement. And keep those bacteria fed with good prebiotic, fiber-filled foods. We’ve got a whole list of those here!
If you’ve ever been sleep-deprived (who hasn’t?!), it probably comes as no surprise that sleep quality is strongly associated with the state of your mood. Aim for 7-8 hours each night and remember to stay away from blue light (computers, cell phones, etc.) a couple hours before bedtime, or wear blue light blocking glasses or filters to allow your body to wind down naturally. Think of the long hours of darkness as Mother Nature’s way of giving you more time to sleep!
It’s no fun to feel less than your best during the dark months of winter, but we’re confident that these day-brighteners will put a pep in your step and give a boost to your mood. And if you didn’t notice, each tip has health benefits that extend beyond mood, so pick a few and enjoy the holistic benefits for your entire well-being!