Stay Sunny All Winter Long

Gloomy skies, freezing temperatures and melancholy moods seem to go hand in hand for many during this time of year. Winter months should come with a notice, joked radio host Laura Lorson, on National Public Radio show All Things Considered.  “It may as well come with a warning sign on the calendar that says, ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here.”Lorson, a Kentucky native has never adjusted to the long winters in Kansas where she now resides, despite having lived there for 12 years. She is not alone.

Mood is directly related to how much sunlight we receive, and it is common to suffer from mild to major seasonal depression during the winter months, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD can last for a few days or throughout the whole season. Symptoms may include depression, sleeping problems, low energy and fatigue, craving high carbohydrate foods which can lead to weight gain, feeling grumpy, anxiety, loss of libido and mood swings. SAD can also suppress the immune system, leaving you prone to colds ad flu. This could be avoided however if you work consciously to change your attitude.

It may be gloomy outside, but your outlook does not have to be. “There are simple things you can do to stay positive,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. “It’s important to keep your mood up because it can help you avoid everything from gaining extra pounds to feeling lethargic.”


Use these tips to stay sunny all winter long, no swimsuit required:

Winterize your workout

In a study at Duke University, people with depression who walked for 30 minutes three times a week felt less depressed. As temperatures drop, it is harder to get motivated to make it into the gym. “Exercise can boost your mood, and you need that lift even more during the winter,” says Patricia Laguna, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton.

Give yourself some incentive or make a pact with a friend. Plan varying workouts each week to keep them new and interesting. Reward yourself with a small treat at the end of the week if you stick to your schedule such as a mani-pedi. If you are doing it with a friend, whoever doesn’t reach their weekly goal has to buy!

Eat Healthy

Winter comfort foods are often times high in fat, sugar laden and carbohydrate heavy. Resist temptation, keep your waistline in check and be a whole lot happier for it. Refined carbs and sugar can spike your blood sugar levels, which has been proven to leave you feeling cranky or irritable.

Some comfort foods, however, can double as healthy pick-me-ups, especially if they contain mood-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, good carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables), protein, and B vitamins.

Eat oatmeal for breakfast, it contains fiber-rich whole grains that increase serotonin, a feel good chemical in your brain, and steadies your blood sugar level. At dinner, try salmon (chalk full of healthy omega-3) with whole-wheat pasta or brown rice.

Don’t hibernate

Socializing is a powerful way to boost your mood says Dr. Esther Sternberg, M.D., author of “The Balance Within.” Fight the urge to hibernate until spring and plan weekly outing with friends. Start a wine-tasting club, invite a friend to workout or join a book club.

Use color therapy

Did you know that color can affect blood pressure, glands, electrical skin resistance, and how we feel each day? Use the power of color when decorating your home or getting dressed each day. Colors such as red, orange and yellow are uplifting. They stimulate and energize. Avoid using grey, blue and black.

Embrace winter’s pleasures

“When you enjoy rather than dread what’s around you, your optimistic thoughts will start trumping your negative ones,” Lyubomirsky explains. Refocus on positive thoughts when your mind starts to drift toward negativity. Take time to enjoy all the things this season has to offer, such as ice-skating, hot toddies, and cozy nights next to the fireplace. This will make you more content.

Bundle up

“Winter’s cold can make you feel sluggish because of the increased energy demand on your body,” says Dr. Vincent Pedre, M.D., a clinical instructor of medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Staying warm can be your secret to staying merry. Don’t leave home without your scarf, hat and gloves for one of the easiest spirit-lifters.

See the Light

Gloomy weather got you down? A lack of vitamin D could be the culprit. Your body produces D, which has been shown to regulate mood when your skin is exposed to UVB light. In winter, the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough in the northern half of the United States to power D production. Ask your doctor to see if you are deficient and talk about supplementing if you are.

Sunlight also increases levels of serotonin and works to suppress melatonin which is a chemical that makes you drowsy, explains Norman Rosenthal, MD, author of Winter Blues.

To get your fill, consider investing in a light box, which can help combat sluggishness. And get outside whenever you spot some rays!

Implement these tips into your daily routine and find yourself happier and healthier this winter! 




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Our blog features a series of interviews with some of the most visible and inspiring people world wide (ILTV) PLUS inspiration, business tips, and advice from Keri.