Beating the Late Winter Blues

In winter, I’m asked a couple of times a week “when does Boot Camp start up again?” to which of course I reply, “We never stopped, we’ve been going all through the winter, six days a week.” I’m usually quizzed as to how we achieve that. Answer: layers and a positive attitude.

Published March 7, 2014 6:36 PM
4 min read

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By Lee Sandford

B6-HEALTH-SANDFORDIn winter, I’m asked a couple of times a week “when does Boot Camp start up again?” to which of course I reply, “We never stopped, we’ve been going all through the winter, six days a week.” I’m usually quizzed as to how we achieve that. Answer: layers and a positive attitude.  I always say, it’s not the first winter session, the one between New Year and the February break, that’s tough. In those weeks, people know the weather and temperatures will be challenging, and therefore are happy for any outdoor time they can get. Residents must ensure that their homes provide comfortable and relaxing environment despite the extreme cold temperature outside. To help achieve this, they may need to seek Preventative HVAC Maintenance services from a furnace repair company to prepare their heating system for the cold weather. Conducting furnace repair now will help avoid heating issues in the middle of winter.

The harder winter session is this one, between February and spring breaks, when everyone is desperate for a respite from brutal temperatures and any glimmer of hope that winter is on its way out.

Winter certainly seems determined to stick around this year. It feels like every conversation since Christmas has involved a complaint about how hard this winter is, and a few people have also commented that people around town seem glum and even a bit mean, one primary example being how people are coping with traffic issues due to the snow making roads narrower. Our lovely little town of cooperation and neighborliness has developed a bit of an edge these last few weeks, and we seem to have contracted Seasonal Affective Disorder as a group.

Okay Rye! We can do this without the Police Blotter filling up with snow-rage incidents. Here are five top tips for guarding against the late-winter blues.

>Get fresh air
It’s all to easy to stay indoors in this weather but most people know, and it’s accepted science, that exposure to fresh air sets in motion a physiological chain that quickly improves your mood and emotional state. Shaking off the sluggish indoor feeling and breathing in fresh air, improves oxygen flow to the blood and the vitamin D absorption from the sun is known to improve your mood.

>Get in touch with nature
Dozens of studies have been conducted in stressful environments such as hospitals and prisons, and in situations such as commuter stress. The evidence consistently points to a human need to feel close to nature and the health benefits are now well-accepted. Even just showing people photographs of nature, especially ones with a water scene, causes a swing towards a positive, contented frame of mind, reducing anger and anxiety levels. And that’s just the effect of a picture. Get yourself to one of our water views and feel your mood improve!

With your next grocery shopping buy yourself a bunch of flowers, or change your screen saver to a nature scene. Even if you can’t get out of the house or office, little things like these are known to help.

>Exercise
There are too many studies to sift through on the positive mental affects of exercise, so I’ll keep this one short: exercise improves your mood instantly, period. I’m not just thinking of the famous “runner’s high.” Any activity that elevates your heart rate will immediately result in physiological changes that put you in a better mood, like it or not! If you don’t believe me because I haven’t included research to back it up, take your own sample size of one and try it and see.

>Cut back on the comfort food
The research as to exactly which nutrients and vitamins improve your mood is fairly scattered. In general though, overeating simple carbs, as is easy to do in winter, causes spikes then troughs in blood sugar levels, which play havoc with your energy levels. A few studies link the Mediterranean diet, i.e. one rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, with lower levels of depression, so throw a colorful side salad together, to have with your sensibly-sized serving of comfort food.

Evidence also suggests that sufficient intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids is good for mental health. These are found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.

>Conversation and laughter
When I think of the link between social interaction and mental health, the old sayings that spring to mind are “A trouble shared is a trouble halved” and “laughter is the best medicine.” Try not to go too deeply into solitary hibernation during the cold snaps. One paper by the New York Academy of Medicine opens simply: “It is generally agreed that social ties play a beneficial role in maintenance of psychological well-being.” A good chin-wag with a friend may start as a whining session about the unending winter and snow days, but just that venting and probably receiving some validation about your feelings (I refer you to the claims that the whole town is slightly glum) alleviates stress.

Humans’ natural inclination though, is to try to share a laugh together, so conversation is usually interspersed with a good deal of smile-therapy, making this final top-tip a fun one.

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