Mental & Emotional Health
Let the Sun Shine: Mind Your Mental Health This Winter
Although the winter season begins with a bit of holiday cheer, many people feel a little “off” as the cold weather drags on. I’ve already seen a few patients who are puzzled by how easily they become irritated. “Is there something wrong with me?” “Why am I so unhappy?” Often, their bodies are just responding to the darker and colder days.
We are governed by circadian rhythms, our body’s natural clock that helps regulate important functions including sleep/wake cycles and mood. These rhythms can be thrown off by the winter season.1 The sky gets bright later in the morning, and dark earlier in the evening; yet, our hectic schedules require us to keep going as if nothing has changed. This shift, along with other factors – including genetics and body chemistry – may affect your mental health.
Exercising, eating nutritious foods, practicing mindfulness, and maintaining social support systems are core components of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only is physical activity a fantastic outlet for stress, exercising 30 minutes daily may help your body release endorphins, your natural “happy hormones.” It may be challenging during the holidays to eat healthy, but try to fill up first on healthy fruits and vegetables to maintain a balanced diet then have the occasional indulgence.
Meditation has been shown to improve symptoms in people suffering from depression and anxiety, and may also help you to stay well. Meditation can be as short as a 10-minute session every other day when you take the time to be mindful and check in with your body. Some people, especially those who find it difficult to quiet their minds, may find guided meditation helpful. There are plenty of apps such as Headspace and podcasts available to help you. Other meditative practices such as yoga, taking a quiet stroll in a park, or even closing your eyes to focus on listening to your favorite song can also be helpful.
Keeping in touch with your family, friends, and other caring people in your life strengthens your sense of community, and provides you with a strong support system to call on when you feel down.