In cold winter months, it’s hard to resist the urge to stay indoors and cut back on some of the activities we enjoy in warmer temperatures. But staying social and active is essential to your mental and physical health, so it’s critical to make sure you don’t stay indoors at the expense of your well-being. To fend off winter sadness, try:

Exercising to improve your mood. It’s easy to make excuses to cut back on exercise in the winter—it’s dark, it’s cold, you’re tired. Be mindful of this and schedule workouts or walks on your calendar to hold yourself accountable. Remember that any amount of exercise is beneficial because your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which are known to reduce pain and trigger a positive feeling in your body—both of which combat seasonal affective disorder.

Getting sun when you can. Exposure to sun is vital in the winter months when sun hours are shorter. A quick 10-minute walk around the block is enough to get some vitamin D, so bundle up and take advantage of the often rare sunny days. If it is overcast for prolonged time periods, consider using a light therapy box that is designed to simulate daylight. There are many models available on the Internet and these devices can greatly benefit your mood. 

TKS Jan 17 Winter Hibernation

Volunteering. Studies show volunteering can reduce stress, provide mental stimulation, give life a sense of purpose and expand social connections. Don’t shy away from the opportunity to connect to your community and those around you during the winter months. Find a way to volunteer that fits into your schedule and your passions. 

Visiting family and friends. It’s not uncommon to feel more isolated in winter. People tend to stay home and watch more television, or go to bed early. Actively remind yourself to schedule time spent with friends and loved ones; you will benefit and they will appreciate it. 

Avoiding excessive sleeping. Too much sleep can lead to grogginess, and even though you many want to sleep more when the days are shorter and the nights are darker, try not to sleep more than 7-10 hours a day.

Engaging in conversations on your social media networks. If it is simply too cold for you to venture out, you can still stay connected and make plans with friends using social media messengers. You can also learn about fun events you may not have known were happening where you live.

The most beneficial way to adhere to these efforts is to reach out to a friend or family member and plan activities together. It can be easy to sign up for something and cancel last minute if it’s cold or dark outside, but having someone accompany you to an event or gym class can keep you active and engaged with those around you. 

By Margaret Schmidt