6 Ways to Cope with the ‘Winter Blues’ During the Cold Winter Months
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), also commonly known as the ‘Winter Blues’, is a type of depression that is caused by a lack of sunlight / Vitamin D (which is a natural vitamin from the sun) during colder months. A few of the common symptoms of SAD include: low energy, changes in appetite and weight, difficulty concentrating, troubles sleeping, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, etc. Due to the reduced amount of sunlight during the autumn and winter months, our bodies are not exposed to enough light / Vitamin D and therefore our serotonin and melatonin levels are affected. As we all adjust to the cold again, it is important to be aware of and watch for the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D). Here are 6 ways to lift your spirits whether you feel low or need something fun to do:
- Culture – Medicine Wheel
The Sacred Wheel is extremely important for one’s health and healing.
The four quadrants embody what is important to an individual in order to live a healthy and balanced life. By creating your own Medicine Wheel it can connect you to yourself and your culture. It also allows you to determine what will help you maintain a healthy life in order to cope with SAD. In your Medicine Wheel, include components that boost your mood and help you physically and psychologically.
Below is an example:
Two important supplements that can be added to one’s diet to help are:
- Vitamin D: is naturally delivered from the sun. It is important to increase our consumption of Vitamin D during the winter months due to the reduced amount of sunlight. Vitamin D is incredibly important to our physical and mental health; it assists our bodies with the absorption of calcium which helps to promote bone growth, as well as strengthens our immune system and brain health. You can either add a Vitamin D supplement to your diet, or you can incorporate certain foods that are rich in Vitamin D. Here are a few suggestions:
- Salmon, eggs, mushrooms, pork, oysters, beef liver, orange juice, and milk.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid: is fundamental to our body’s cells that help keep our bodies functioning, including our hearts, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system. Omega-3 is also a ‘brain food’ that helps repair our brains’ and assists in a better functioning and healthier brain. You can take Omega-3 as a supplement or add these foods to your diet:
- chia seeds, brussel sprouts, hemp seed, walnuts, flaxseeds, and eggs, to list a few.
Regular exercise is super important for multiple reasons. Some key reasons include:
- Exercise releases endorphins which are our brains’ natural hormones that cause feelings of happiness and boosts our mood.
- Exercise causes the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin:
- These three natural body chemicals help one’s brain control body movements, stimulate the nervous system to help the body respond to stress, regulate cognitive abilities and motivation, and aids in regulating anxiety and improving memory and sleep.
- A few outdoor activities to get active:
- Geocaching – Aka – treasure hunt! (Family friendly)
- There are over 4,000 different geocaches around Edmonton to find!
- Toboggan at:
- Castle Downs, Emily Murphy, Rundle, Whitemud
- DO NOT skate on ponds or other undesignated ice because it is DANGEROUS
- Skate rentals are available at: William Hawrelak Pavilion
- Snowshoe at these locations:
- Check out these local areas that feature parks and stores:
- 124 Street & Area
- Alberta Avenue
- Ritchie Market
- Old Strathcona
- Overview of activities to try in Edmonton:
- Geocaching – Aka – treasure hunt! (Family friendly)
- Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is key to maintaining a good mood because everything you eat has an effect on your body. For example, caffeine and sugar have been studied to show an increase in feelings of anxiousness, whereas vegetables and proteins help regulate your mood. Healthy foods provide your body with many important vitamins and minerals that can help maintain the nervous system and brain functioning. Incorporate as many of the main food groups as you can at each meal, or speak with a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, or naturopath to learn more about specific foods.
In light of COVID-19 we know that it may be difficult and anxiety-provoking to socialize with your friends and family, but socializing is important for your health. You may go for a walk outside (weather permitting) or participate in one of the many activities occurring in Edmonton this winter, but please follow COVID-19 protocols. Here are a some activities to attend this winter:
- Drumming: Friday’s 7-9PM
- Boyle Street Community League (GYM)
- Contact: (587)-336-1104
- Create a ‘Winterscape’:
- Winterscape = decorate your yard by using natural resources (snow, ice, and other objects)
- A Century of Mark Making: October 30th, 2021 – January 23rd, 2022
- Displays of Art at the Ledcor Theatre Gallery at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
- Silver Skate Festival: February 11th – 21st, 2022 in Hawrelak Park
- Features a skating loop, cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, tobogganing, ‘Night Sky Storytelling’, local music, snow and ice sculptures.
- Other activities:
- Visit the Edmonton Valley Zoo
- Visit the John Janzen Nature Centre
- Tube the Snow Wave at Sunridge Ski Area
Maintaining a regular schedule, sticking to a specific wake up time and bedtime, is extremely important when coping with the winter blues, or feeling low in general. By doing so it will help to reset your circadian rhythm (more information at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm) and will all-in-all help you sleep better; mainly because your brain will know exactly when it should be releasing, or not releasing, melatonin. Reducing exposure to blue light (which is emitted from cell phones, TVs, and other electronics) before bed is also important when it comes to getting a better sleep because blue light disrupts our brain’s ability to release melatonin. Try reading a book before bed instead.
If you are struggling and find it difficult to cope, please seek help from whoever you trust. Here are some helplines to call if needed:
- Mental Health Helpline
Offers help for mental health concerns for Albertans.
1 – 877 – 303 – 2642 (24 Hours)
- Crisis TEXT Line
Text CONNECT to 741741
- Crisis Services of Canada
Nationwide organization that promotes mental health & supports people recovering from mental illnesses.
1 – 833 – 456 – 4566
- Edmonton Distress Line
780 – 482 – 4357 (4357)
- Community Resources – for social, health, and government services
Help make a difference in your community by voting on events and projects that matter most to you at: www.fieldlawcommunityfund.com/ideas/?region=edmonton