It has been scientifically proven that many of us feel a bit more glum and dispirited during the winter months. In fact, this past Monday was the most depressing day of the year. The third Monday of January, this year January 16, has been deemed “Blue Monday.”
Years ago Cliff Arnall, a former tutor at Cardiff University, published a mathematical equation that showed depression levels were highest on what is now known as “Blue Monday.” The formula indicators include weather, debt, monthly salaries, low motivation levels, and the feeling of need to take action. These indicators represent the depressing feelings we have due to debt from Christmas purchases, abandonment of New Year’s resolutions, and cold weather.
Though many researchers and scientists have gone on to debunk Arnall’s formula, many still agree that we experience lower levels of motivation and more depressive feelings during winter months. We have put together, and tested, 5 ways to combat these feelings.
- Go towards the light. It is dark and gloomy from December-March and our body begins to crave daylight. Take a walk outside on a rare sunny day in January. Invest in a light box. A light therapy lamp, like the one seen here, provides safe, natural light. Try sitting next to this 15-30 minutes a day and we guarantee you will feel a bit lighter.
- Vitamins. My doctor recommends all of his patients take Vitamin D during the winter months. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium, which is essential for bone health. Our bodies are deprived of natural light and therefore, our Vitamin D levels drop. Vitamin D is only stored in our bodies for 1-2 months. So, if the last time you got a good dose of natural sunlight was in November, it is time to start a vitamin routine.
- Exercise. A lot of us make a New Year’s resolution to start going to the gym to lose weight. But, exercise is just as helpful to our mental health as it is to our physical. This is a busy time of year, and it can be hard to fit in gym time between work and other responsibilities. Try and start slowly. Head to the gym twice a week for 30 minutes a day. Then gradually add another day, and try to stay 5-10 minutes longer each time. We guarantee you will feel better physically, mentally and emotionally!
- Eat happy foods. Sure, we should all make a resolution to start eating healthier, but also happier. We know from experience that it is difficult to stay away from carbs and candy during depressing times, but they will only give you a quick feeling of euphoria. Instead, try adding chicken, turkey, or fish to your diet. Chicken and turkey increase serotonin in our brain, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. And fish is a great source of Vitamin D! And to get you through those extra hard times, turn to chocolate! That’s right, chocolate. It enhances your mood and releases anxiety!
- Journal. A good friend recently told me, “when your mind is going a mile a minute, or you’re in an extra depressive mood, write down your thoughts and don’t look back.” Sometimes we just need to get thoughts out of our head. If a bad day at work, or fight with a significant other, is making your winter blues worse, write about it. But, the trick is not to read it. Once your write it down, you are done. I began this about a week ago and have already noticed a difference in my mood.
Let us know if you have tried any of these winter blue combatants! Have they worked? Or do you have any solutions of your own? Feel free to share in a comment. And if all else fails, remember: winter only lasts 3 months! On March 20th spring will arrive and soon enough sunlight and happier days will come with it!