After a brutal stretch of low temps and with a blizzard on the way, I think we can officially say that winter is in full force this year. Not to be confused with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), the winter blues are a feeling that can occur when temperatures drop, going out becomes a chore and traffic is almost always inevitable. The combination of a lack of sunlight and cold weather strains your mood and disrupts your circadian rhythm, which in turn can leave you feeling lethargic, unmotivated and totally drained. Here are our tips to help lift your spirits during the cold weather doldrums.
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish word/concept. While there's no direct translation of the feeling in English, it's basically a quality of coziness that produces a feeling of well-being. It is the joy of finding contentment in mindful, cozy moments. The simple glow of a candle with a cup of coffee can be enough to lift spirits on a cold day. There is no set recipe for hygge; it's just anything that gives you a cozy sense of gratitude and fulfillment. Light some candles, pile up the pillows, grab a book and curl up with a warm cup of tea. Unplugging and giving yourself time to unwind in a calm, cozy atmosphere is the perfect remedy for a long day battling the cold.
Yoga combines postures, meditation and deep breathing to promote a sense of well-being and connectedness. Not only do the physical poses release chemicals that trigger positive feelings in your body, the mediation and deep breathing soothe and calm your mind leaving you relaxed, calm and unwound. Plus it gives you an energy boost which is essential in combating the lethargy cold weather can bring on. Head to a local studio or stream a class online. However you practice, putting in the time and intention to do your best is what matters most.
The freezing temperatures and severe weather of winter make this season a busy time at shelters and soup kitchens. Giving your time to a cause you believe in not only benefits your community but also your mental health. In fact, a recent sociological study found that Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered at least 5.8 hours a month. Generosity and gratitude work together to create an upward spiral of well-being.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for healing. Scents trigger the parts of our brain used as storehouses for memory and emotion meaning we can use them to trigger different feelings. For example, studies have shown that lavender oil significantly reduces the levels of a major stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn has a calming effect. Oils like lavender, roman chamomile, ylang-ylang, and bergamot will boost your mood during the gloomy days of winter.
Treat yourself. Splurge on whatever will satisfy your current craving. A delicious, hearty meal can make a huge difference in your mood - especially on a cold, gloomy night. By taking care of our nutrition we also take care of our mental health. For dessert, try some chocolate. It has the chemical tryptophan in it which the brain uses to produce serotonin (the chemical responsible for happiness).
Photo via Evening Standard.
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