Four Surprising Winter Habits That Are Making You SAD
Seasonal affective disorder isn't inevitable. Here's how to beat winter blahs
Posted Mar 05, 2016
SPECIAL GUEST POST BY JENNIFER SCOTT
Winter means cold weather and possibly snow and ice in many parts of the U.S. That makes many people want to curl up inside where it’s warm and cozy rather than brave the bitter cold. For this reason, winter results in a change in daily habits for many people – but are you adopting winter habits that could be harming your mental health? Here’s a look at a few common winter habits that can be damaging to your mental health.
Skipping Healthy Exercise Habits
If you’re a jogger in the warm spring and summer weather, it’s easy to let that healthy habit fall to the wayside when the temperatures drop and the snow falls. Even people who exercise faithfully indoors can start slacking during the winter. Something about the freezing temperatures can make you want to nap under a nice warm blanket rather than hit the gym.
But exercise can increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are natural mood-boosting neurotransmitters. So while the winter weather might be making you feel tired and melancholy, avoiding exercise can make these symptoms worse, not better.
Spending Too Much Time Indoors
If you don’t enjoy the freezing cold temperatures, you’re likely to hole yourself up inside where it’s toasty and warm rather than brave the elements for skiing or some other outdoor winter adventure. But spending too much time indoors can actually reduce your energy levels and dampen your mood. That’s because sunlight – even when the temperatures are cold – gives you a good dose of Vitamin D, which can boost your mood. Not to mention, it’s helpful to breathe in some nice, crisp outdoor air.
So get outside! Whether you choose to take a stroll around the neighborhood, take Fido for a trip to the dog park, or start an ultimate frisbee league with your friends, the sunshine and fresh air will do wonders for your state of mind.
Over-Indulging in Comfort Foods
Winter means jeans and cozy sweaters, so many people feel as though they don’t have to watch their waistline quite as closely during the winter months as the likelihood that they’ll need to don a revealing swimsuit is slim to none. With winter being comfort food season, from holiday meals to rich, warm, and flavorful favorite dishes, over-indulging becomes a real possibility.
Eating too many comfort foods that aren’t rich in healthy vitamins and minerals not only thickens your waistline but could also end up depriving your body of essential nutrients that impact your mental health. While you shouldn’t deny yourself the occasional indulgence, you should ensure that your diet is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other healthy foods that contain vital nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, folic acid, and Vitamin B12.
Giving in to Procrastination
If you’re tired and sluggish as a result of the winter blues, procrastination can become a real issue during the colder months as you put off important tasks because you’re not feeling up to it. But procrastinating things that really need to be done can increase stress and anxiety, making it all the worse for your mental health.
Commit to working on tasks you don’t feel like doing for just five minutes. Often, you’re so immersed in the project after five minutes is up that it’s easier to continue, giving you some motivation to get it done. Plus, the achievement you’ll feel when you finally cross those items off your to-do list is well worth it.
Instead of giving in to unhealthy habits this winter, think about taking up a new, healthy hobby that combines physical activity with some quality time outdoors. Commit to sticking to your goals and your healthy diet and exercise routine no matter what the weather’s like outside.
dopamine and serotonin (http://robbwolf.com/2012/12/05/neurotransmitters-prolonged-exercise/)
dog park (https://www.rover.com/blog/top-10-new-york-city-off-leash-dog-parks/)
essential nutrients (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/emotional-we...)
Jennifer Scott is a New York Times bestselling author--and
lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression. She created her website, SpiritFinder.org, as a platform for advocacy on opening up about mental health. Through the site, she hopes to share the types of steps and success stories that can help others realize their own power. When she isn’t working on her website, she enjoys traveling, working with animals, and seeking out new friendships and adventures.