There are lots of things to love about winter – The possibility of snow, the new coffees on the menu, turning the heating on, curling up in the evening under a blanket – but there’s one thing that is hard to love: the distinct lack of daylight hours and the winter blues.
If you work in an office or commute to work, you often wake up when it’s dark, leave for work when it’s dark, work through all the daylight, then get home when it’s dark. Combine that with the cold (and colds, for that matter) and you’ve got a pretty solid recipe for the dreaded winter blues.
So, without further ado, here’s the Bamboo guide to beating the Winter Blues:
#1: Cut down on sugar in your diet to beat the winter blues
Perhaps the easiest way to beat the winter blues is to fix up your diet. When the winter kicks in, it’s easy to reach straight for the sugar. After all, who doesn’t like a bit of a sugar rush when they’re feeling down? Plus, it doesn’t matter if you put on a bit of weight – it’s just insulation from the cold, right?
But refined sugars cause a spike in your blood sugar levels that causes a spike in emotions. In short, sugar makes you feel great but then your mood crashes. Instead, eat more complex carbohydrates (these release a steady flow of energy and make you feel fuller for longer) and – if you crave that sweet hit, then try some dark chocolate.
The higher the percentage of cocoa – or, if you’re into your clean eating, products with cacao in – the less sugar in the chocolate, which is great. But, on top of that, cocoa and cacao contain tryptophan – a chemical that causes our brains to release serotonin, which makes us happy. In short, small quantities of chocolate (that’s low in refined sugar) is the answer to the winter blues.
#2: Whip your body into shape
OK, this one’s not quite as fun. Even if you love the gym, does it honestly compare to a piece of chocolate? But still, it’s important. Not only does exercise increase your heart rate and help you keep fit during the winter months, but it’s also scientifically proven to help boost your mood.
Even a few workouts a week can help you shirk the winter blues. (If you’re looking for ways to work out even when it’s cold, check out our post on losing weight during the winter – there’s exercises in there that you can do without getting cold at all!)
#3: Don’t forget to socialise
Remember the summer? You probably saw your friends all the time – you’d get a text, head to a beer garden for the evening, chat, laugh, plan a BBQ and have a great time. Next weekend, you’d do the same thing. Now winter is here, you get a text saying ‘Pub tonight?’ and your first instinct is to decline, head home and climb under a blanket with your new best friends: Netflix boxsets.
But socialising – laughing with your friends, joking around, chatting – have all been proven to boost your mood and make you happier in the long run. By all means, chill out with Netflix a few nights a week, but don’t forget that it’s important to brave the cold every now and again if it means seeing your mates.
#4: Plan a holiday
If winter feels like it’s going to be here forever, then start planning a holiday. You can look forward to the sunshine and sun and either have a bit of a break from it all (if you’re going on a winter getaway) or start looking forward to the end of the winter. Plus – bonus points – research has demonstrated the just the act of planning a holiday can make you happier! So, you don’t even have to go!
(For a few tips on planning a holiday with a tight budget, head to our post from a few months ago!
#5: Finally, make sure you get a decent night’s sleep
A good night’s sleep can make the world of difference – especially when the clock change has thrown off your sleep cycle. Go to bed a little earlier than usual, make sure you’re relaxed and rack up those zs.
If you’re struggling to sleep, make your bed a no phone/tablet/device zone – get in bed, read a book and you’ll doze off in no time. Plus, set an alarm and get up at the same time – it’s all about getting your body in a pattern that doesn’t rely on natural light!
(Also, try to avoid jacking up your caffeine intake if you feel tired – it can lead to crashes and dehydration, which will only make you feel worse.)
Although it’s normal to feel a little bit gloomier during the winter months, if you’re feeling unusually sad or down, it’s worth going to see your GP and having a chat. It might just be the weather, but it could be Seasonal Affected Disorder. It’s worth checking, either way.