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How to Combat the January Blues

I was talking with a group of my friends this week and they were commenting on how much January/February negatively affects them. It is a common phenomenon this time of year to have a lowering of mood. It is a combination of the weather, debt problems, low motivation, returning to work after Christmas and abandoned New Year resolutions. So how do we combat the blues and turn our mood around?

Increase Vitamin D Intake

One of the reasons we feel less energy and less motivation is because we are not able to get as much vitamin D from the sun and so we end up with a deficiency of vitamin D. You can increase your vitamin D through eating foods that contains it. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish and seafood (tuna, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, sardines, anchovies), mushrooms, egg yokes and fortified vitamin D foods (cow’s milk, plant-based milk alternatives like soy, almond, and hemp milk, orange juice, ready-to-eat cereals, certain types of yogurt and tofu). The other solutions are to take a vitamin D supplement or get a UV lamp.

Make Social Plans

We hole up in the winter and it is very easy to plop ourselves on the couch and watch endless hours of TV. But doing that will only cause your mood to lower. It’s a great time to reach out to that friend you haven’t caught up with in a while. The recommendation is to make plans with friends or family at least once per week. Even if it is for a quick coffee at your local coffee shop as changing your environment will lift your spirits. The act of going out will lessen the risk of feeling like the season is preventing you from have a social life.

Surround Yourself with Cozy Things

There are few things that can change a mood faster than being chilled or wearing something that has an irritating scratch to you. Put on a warm sweater, some fuzzy socks and curl up with a cozy blanket while drinking your favourite hot beverage and enjoy the relaxing benefits of the weather.

Get with Nature

The hardest thing in winter is to be able to be in nature like we are in the summer. So be creative because we still need it. Get yourself a houseplant to take care of. Studies have shown that gardening can help reduce feelings of depression. It’s a simple thing, but I really do believe watering a plant can help lift the clouds of a gray mood. The other options outside your house are to visit a local nursery and walk through the plants or go visit your friend who has a green thumb and tend their plants. Or even bundle up and go for a brisk walk on a nature trail.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, and sometimes the best treatment is talking it out with a therapist or using a combination of therapy and lifestyle changes. If you experience moderate to severe winter depression, meaning it affects several areas of your life and prevents you from doing things, seeing a therapist could help. Sometimes small lifestyle changes are enough to pick someone up when they’re feeling low, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Seeing a therapist can get you to address negative feelings and learn how to change your perspective and behavior accordingly. It may also help prevent you from falling into the same cycle in the years to come.

Let the Light In

One of the easiest ways to help cope with your winter depression is to let daylight into your house wherever and whenever you can. It’s common to close your drapes and blinds during the winter because of the cold weather and fewer hours of sun, but uncovering your windows to let natural daylight shine through could give you the mood boost you need to get out of your funk. Sit near windows when you can, and don’t close your drapes until the evening. Accepting and embracing the daylight you’re given could help you get past some of the January Blues.

Make Time for Yourself

It is especially important in the winter to take time for yourself to rejuvenate. Read a book, take a bath, rent a movie, get a pedicure, try a new recipe, clean out your truck, it simply doesn’t matter what you enjoy, as long as you do it. Take the opportunity to do something that makes you happy and give you something to look forward to. Schedule some “me time” in at least once per week so that it can act as a continuous boost to your mood.

Remember that you are not alone in this. Many of your friends are probably experiencing the same lowering of mood this January. So, let’s all get out there and help each other through the winter blues.


Registered Psychotherapist

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