Winter is just around the corner, at least here in Michigan it is. And with everything that’s happened this year and all that we’re still facing this is likely to be one of the most difficult ones yet! So, it’s more important than ever to set yourself up for success. Your best chances of staving off seasonal affective disorder start now! A little preparation goes a long way in keeping SAD & the winter blues away! Once it’s January and getting your feet on the floor and body out of bed seems like the most monumental task of your lifetime it is too late. You’re already in the winter doldrums and without medical intervention, you’re likely to stay firmly planted there until late March (despite what the groundhog says)! BUT, you can make a few simple life changes and preparations to prevent or minimize the impact of hibernation season on your life and mood!
1. Get Extra Sun
While daytime temperatures are still mild spend some extra time outside! Vitamin D isn’t like other vitamins! It’s actually stored in the body! So, building up your vitamin D levels by spending extra time outside (sans sunscreen) is a great idea! Y’all know I’m a huge sunscreen fan but at this time of year it can be beneficial to get 15 minutes to half an hour in the sun without it. Even a short walk around the block on your lunch hour will make a huge difference!
It is believed that the lack of sunlight and lower levels of vitamin D are the biggest causes of SAD and the winter blues. Building up some reserves is simple and worthwhile. And, don’t forget to head outside in the winter months as well when the weather cooperates and the sun is shining!
2. Eat Healthy & Stay Hydrated
Being in peak physical condition going into the winter really helps keep you feeling your best! Foods that are naturally high in vitamin D are salmon, mackerel, sardines, canned tuna, shrimp, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Including these in your diet helps to improve your mood and overall sense of well being. And for overall health don’t forget to eat plenty of fruits and veggies!
Make sure that you stay hydrated as well. Being dehydrated causes fatigue, sleep difficulties and food cravings among other symptoms! It is best to shoot for half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. So, If you weigh 150 lbs you would need to drink 75 oz of water a day! This is a far more accurate way of calculating than using the generic 8 – 10 8 oz glasses!
Going into the winter months well nourished and hydrated will put you on track to stay that way! Take advantage of that summer motivation and energy to get yourself set up for success!
3. Get Into a Good Exercise Routine
During these mild temperature days head out doors and get moving. Research shows that exercising outside is actually easier. And we have greater endurance in the great outdoors! Take advantage of that and get a good exercise routine going! It takes about a month to form a habit! If you start exercising now you’ll be ready to move your routine indoors when the harsh weather comes. Then it will just become part of your daily life throughout the winter and you’ll have a great habit established to kick off the new year!
Fun exercise is the best way to stave off depression and shake off a funk! Having a great routine already in place will pay off during those miserable cold months!
4. Plan Ahead
Create a winter “project” list and a winter “bucket” list. Giving yourself tangible goals and things to look forward to will help winter pass much more quickly. And at the end you’ll have a list of accomplishments and experiences you can be proud of!
Winter is NOT the time to take on a deep cleaning project or paint a room unless you’re willing to open a window! But, it is the perfect time to organize and purge. Or, just catch up on whatever you’ve avoided in favor of heading to the beach. It’s the ideal time to watch Tidying Up on Netflix and practice KonMari! This is also a great opportunity to learn all about Feng Shui and see how 9 lemons in a bowl effects the energy of your house! Since I’m a big reader I try to get books and magazines I’ve collected read and organized.
Break up big projects into small weekly or daily tasks to ensure feelings of success and avoid getting overwhelmed!
Thinking about what you could put on a winter bucket list can be a real struggle for some of us! A bit of advanced planning though can really help us fill our winter months.
- Write letters to loved ones near and far
- Try a new hobby
- Take up a winter sport
- Make a reading list
- Dig into personal development
- Practice self-care
One of my personal favorite winter activities is making soup. This winter I’m planning to try a new soup recipe every week! YUMMMM!
5. Prepare Winter Pick Me Ups
I’m a HUGE fan of Pinterest! Before winter comes I like to pin a bunch of cool crafts, natural remedies and natural beauty recipes. I pick a few that I think I’ll want on hand for the winter (like sinus shower pucks and dried flower petal sachets) and I make some. These are things I think I will need or I feel will make me happy or bring a smile to my face on a down day. I have them ready just in case I don’t feel like doing a project but could benefit from having them.
I also collect all of my craft store coupons and check sale papers. That way I can start stocking up on the ingredients and supplies for other crafts and projects. This year I’ve already pinned several body scrub and milk bath recipes and I can’t wait to make them! I often collect sewing projects and crocheting patterns for the winter as well. I make sure that I prepare crafts and activities that make me feel good and productive! Things I genuinely enjoy!
6. Change Your Light Bulbs
This is my absolute MUST! I always change the light bulb over my kitchen sink to a full spectrum light at this time of year. I find that it is best to only change the bulb in one place because you don’t want to be under it all the time. The kitchen is where I start my morning and I’m in there for around 2 hours combined throughout my day. Plus, I’m not typically in there after dinner so the lights don’t mess with my circadian rhythm.
When choosing where to install a full spectrum light these are all important factors. Where do you start your day? Can you avoid those lights after dinner? Can you get 30 min – 2 hrs of daily exposure? Many people find that it is easier to use a full spectrum lamp or place the bulb in a lamp so that they have more control over exposure times and duration. You could even take your lamp to work! For optimal results you want indirect exposure first thing in the morning and off and on throughout the day. And you want limited exposure in the evening. Many people like to use full spectrum lights in their bathroom because they are great for applying make up as well!
7. Invest in a Good Vitamin D3 Supplement
Supplementing D3 can be very beneficial to many people during the winter! Because D3 builds up in your body though it can be helpful to have your levels tested so you know how much you should take! I have found that a naturalpath, functional medicine, or holistic medicine doctor are usually great resources for this. If you are interested in supplementing this winter, or you have a history of SAD I recommend you make an appointment.
In general many multivitamins and optimal multivitamins contain D3 and some foods are enriched with it. You may want to consider these supplementing options instead.
8. Get Extra Rest
Get the rest you need! As the days get shorter and the nights longer it is natural to need some extra rest! Getting ample sleep time has a profound effect on mood and mental health! Most adults in the US aren’t getting enough sleep! On average we need 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night! It is very important to turn off your tech at least a half hour before bed, start a bedtime routine, and keep a similar sleep schedule throughout the week. You’ll feel more productive, happier, and much less fatigued if you are getting enough rest. Don’t wait until winter is in full swing to start forming good sleep habits!
9. Listen to Your Body
The BEST way to stave off the winter blues is to listen to your body! If you need more sleep in the winter (like me), get it! If you need more fruit and veggies in the winter eat them! Make sure that you are still prioritizing self care and exercise. Your body always needs that TLC but especially during the winter!
I like to pamper myself a bit more in the winter by adding more baths into my week to shake off the chills. I also drink warm bone broth and golden milk more often to keep my immune system healthy (& it’s very comforting). Make winter a time to relax and reconnect with yourself! Set that intention NOW so that you can have the best winter yet!
Share on your social media to help your friends and family prepare for a happy healthy winter! Most people don’t know they should be preparing now! What is your favorite way to prevent or shake the winter blues? Share your ideas in the comments!
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