Living in the Upper Peninsula provides its residents with four seasons of beauty, but for some it means experiencing the winter blues.
As days get shorter, it's natural to experience some sadness as moments in the sun get fewer. The sun provides us with vitamin D, which is essential for health and well-being. Here are some basic tips to fight off the winter blues and avoid getting stuck in a rut during the winter months
During the cold, winter months, many of us decrease our activity level, but exercise is important to our health year-round. During the winter months, it is crucial because it releases serotonin in the brain, which gives us that extra kick needed to fight off seasonal blues. Whether you have equipment at home, join a gym or get together with a group to snowshoe, ski or go for a walk, it is important to maintain physical activity. It may not seem like you are benefiting from being outside during the cold, cloudy winter months, but the sun is still providing you with vitamin D, even if you cannot feel the warmth of its rays.
Eat the right foods
Many of us increase our intake of sugary treats and drinks, such as hot chocolate, in the winter to boost our mood or because we are spending more time indoors, but it is only a short-term solution. Sugar gives us a temporary high, but a better alternative would be to consume foods rich in vitamin B and fish oils to help your body create serotonin and increase your energy levels. Examples of foods high in vitamin B include whole grains, spinach, broccoli, beets and lentils. Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel or you could choose plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and utilize oils like soybean or canola in cooking. You can also choose healthy carbohydrates that help your body create serotonin such as nuts, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oatmeal, beans and soup. Milk and fortified cereals, orange juice and yogurt are also good sources of vitamin D, which we need to replenish in the winter months.
Get a massage
Getting a massage not only relaxes tired muscles, but calms the mind, removes toxins and releases serotonin in the brain. There are also many herbs that can be beneficial during the winter months, such as lavender to calm the mind and reduce stress or chamomile tea to help you sleep and reduce stress. Talking to your health care provider about which herbs and/or vitamins may assist you during the winter months is recommended prior to taking any supplements or using herbs.
Paint your walls
Take a look around your home and notice what colors are present. Painting the walls a warm, vibrant or bright color is a sure way to improve your mood in your home or work environment. Hanging colorful artwork, an uplifting quote or adding a splash of color can really help you cope with the winter blues. De-cluttering your home and work environment can also impact your mood as we spend more time indoors during the winter months.
Even though winter does not always appeal to us, it does bring the joy of the holiday season and many outdoor activities such as sledding, snowmen, skating, ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing and other recreational activities we all grew up with and love. Keep busy and maintain a positive attitude and the winter will quickly turn into spring!
Editor's note: Kimberly Hendrickson, LMSW, ACSW, is Baraga County Memorial Hospital's social worker.