Winter can be rough especially for those of us who live in cold climates. Take it from me. In Chicago, temperatures can hover around 20 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks. Combined with the wind, it’s not fun to venture outside most chilly days.

Winter is hard on our mental well-being. Here are 5 ways to beat the winter blues.

1. Expose yourself to natural light.

winter bluesFinding natural light is challenging for those of us in northern climates who want to hibernate during winter. The California Energy Commission conducted a study and found that people who sat near a window performed better, processing tasks 6-12% faster and performing 10-25% better on tests that involved mental function and memory.

I recommend situating your desk near windows if possible. I use a sun energy light lamp, which helps relieve the winter blues in those cold months when I don’t get outside as much. This is the lamp that I use every morning for 30 minutes (affiliate link).

If you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, be sure to get outside a few times a day to soak up some natural rays. Wherever you live, open those windows and let some light through.

2. Take vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D comes from two sources: 1) we take it into our bodies in foods and supplements, and 2) our bodies produce it after sunlight exposure. There are few natural food sources for vitamin D. Fatty fish and egg yolks are examples.

The best way to get more vitamin D is through sunlight, but concerns about sun exposure and the harmful effects on our skin mean it’s challenging to get enough of the vitamin naturally.

Therefore most people rely on supplements to increase their vitamin D levels. First, find out if you are deficient—your doctor can test this through a blood sample.

If you prove deficient, start taking high-quality supplements. I use NatureWise D3 in Organic Olive Oil.

3. Get outside anyway.

Unless weather conditions are severe, you can get outside on most days. Even a 15-minute walk in the cold can invigorate you and reduce stress according to Alan Mikesky, Ph.D.

Getting outside during daylight hours also increases levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps calm cravings.

Be sure to dress warmly and wear shoes with traction in icy or wet conditions. Throw your earbuds in and use the time to listen to some tunes or a podcast. Enjoy!

4. Help someone out.

Ever notice when you help someone out that your problems seem to diminish? Research by Carnegie Mellon on volunteering has shown that adults who regularly volunteered were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Plus those who volunteered at least 200 hours were also associated with greater increases in psychological well-being and physical activity.

Three websites that can help you find volunteer opportunities in your area are VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Points of Light.

5. Take a vacation somewhere warm or plan a

If budget or work demands don’t allow you to escape somewhere warm, plan a trip instead.

The anticipation of planning a trip can be as exciting as actually going according to a study published in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life. Researchers looked at the effect of vacations on happiness and how long the feeling lasts. The largest boost in happiness came from planning the vacation.

As you gaze out the window watching snow fall, consider drinking mojitos on a warm beach in the sun. Ah…enjoy.


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