Story by Cheri Woodsmall
The holiday decorations are packed up. The kids are back in school. Work is busier than ever. You are back to your normal routine. Well, almost. Something is off. You are feeling a bit…well, sad. People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the clinical version of the winter blues, aren’t the only ones who struggle with the shorter days, colder weather, and the general blah of the winter season. Less sunlight can affect the circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock that governs certain brain wave activity and hormone production. If you’re human, chances are you’ve woken up on a gray, wintry day and wanted to stay in bed.
No worries, my solemn friend. We have put together a few things to make your dreary days a bit brighter and help beat those winter blues.
Let the sun shine in
According to a recent Harvard study, when your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light – also called a light box – for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.
Curb those carbs
Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Nothing puts me in a better mood than a little Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate and a glass of wine. But beware, other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
Go for a walk or run
Studies show walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.
Dance it out!
When I am in a writing or creative funk, I tell my dear friend Siri to play The Why Store or 38 Special (yes, I am telling my age here.) My point is, nothing gets you in a good mood like awesome music and dancing it out. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term. Even better, dancing with your girls! So grab your person and go dance it out girls!
Think about warm tropical beaches
Longing to dip your toes in the water? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. March will be here before you know it – start planning that family vacation now!
Jump into the huge heart of KC
One of my favorite things to do is volunteer in Kansas City. This amazing city is notorious for giving back. Did you know that KC holds one of the top spots in the nation for philanthropy? It’s one of the many reasons I love this city so much! Head out to Kansas City Community Kitchen and help feed the thousands of homeless people in the metro area or spend an hour or two a week reading to sick kids at Children’s Mercy. There are hundreds of volunteering opportunities around Kansas City.
Embrace the season
Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels. Take in the beauty and fun of the cold winter season. Go sledding with your kids, dress up super cute and take your honey for an afternoon of ice skating. Or my favorite – dress up in layers and go on a winter hike. There is nothing like the quiet wonder of nature in winter. AND BONUS – you give yourself a natural rosy glow that makes for fabulous pics to put on Facebook and Instagram!