by Don Laird, contributing writer
The winter sun casts long shadows, and darkness gathers quickly as the cold wind blows. Yet, within each of us there kindles a small flame, a hopeful twinkle to answer the call of the long winter months ahead. How will you make it through the next three to four months of gray and dreary weather? Here are some things to consider when making plans to remain healthy during the winter season.
- Meaningful distractions: Seek out activities that you enjoy. Whether it’s reading, going to the gym, painting, organizing a room, or being around others, try to get moving and engaged with things that make sense, have a purpose, and feel beneficial.
- The environment: What is possible? Get creative. For example, snow tubing or taking a brisk walk, as weather conditions permit, makes beautiful sense during the winter months. If spending time in the elements isn’t your thing, try volunteering at an animal shelter or personal care facility. Reduce your social media footprint by carving out time to be with friends or family. This can be beneficial over the phone and in person. Spend time laughing and finding the humor in life, have a game night, or watch a comedy. Lastly, take time to meditate, do yoga, listen to music, and practice mindfulness.
- Consider Therapy: Talk therapy has proven to be just as effective as medications in treating feelings of sadness or depression during the winter months. Therapy will help you explore the root causes of your feelings and assist you with managing symptoms. Stay active during the daytime, especially in the morning, by exercising at a moderate level. Walking, swimming, aerobics, deep breathing, and yoga are great ways to start. Stay hydrated, drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day. The more you do, the more energy you will gain. In addition to physical activity, appeal to your creative spirit by journaling, drawing, or finding some other artistic endeavor. If you feel as though you are experiencing persistent symptoms of sadness or depression, please consult a therapist or physician.
- Natural Light: Exposure to natural light is essential for our well-being. It helps increase vitamin D levels and mood. Open the blinds and take time outside when weather conditions permit. Allow for sunlight and fresh air as much as possible. You may also want to investigate “light therapy.” Check out natural light lamps at your local retailer or on Amazon. Light therapy works very well for most people diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and it is easy to use. Typically, individuals report feeling improvements in mood within two weeks of starting light therapy. Like any other treatment, you must be consistent and use the therapy daily. Otherwise, the results will not be as effective.
- Exercise: Exercise will improve overall health. Mood wise, it balances cortisol levels and stress hormones, and supports overall better mental health and wellness. It’s very important to stay physically active during the winter months, and to have fun in the process. Lastly, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet each day is key for mental clarity, energy, and keeping away unnecessary inflammation.
Treat yourself well, be kind and mindful on days when you are struggling, set mini goals, and give yourself time to adjust to new behaviors. Most importantly, value the balance between physical and emotional well-being.
Don Laird, NCC, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 20 years of experience providing psychotherapy and counseling to adults, teens and couples who are struggling with a wide range of mental health and life issues. Don is a writer and adjunct professor who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in professional counseling and psychology at Carlow University. Additionally, he facilitates workshops and classes in dreams, creativity, self growth, and stress reduction.