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Top 10 ways to beat the winter blues

For many of us living north of the border, it has been a long and gruelling winter season. Despite the frigid cold and frustrating weather, there are many things that you can do to lift your spirits and stay healthy. Here are Dr. Levi’s top 10 ways to beat the winter blues:

1) Exercise
Exercise has many benefits, including stress relief, elevated metabolism, increased energy throughout the day and the release of “feel good hormones”. Exercise also helps improve lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation, detoxification of waste products, facilitate weight loss and enhance positive body image. These are just some of the benefits of regular exercise.

2) Eat a Healthy Diet
Avoid refined and processed foods (white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods not only lack vital nutrients but they deplete your energy levels and can affect your mood, thereby contributing to depressive episodes, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Instead, incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit). Consume the recommended daily intake of 8 cups of water. These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, stabilize your blood sugar and increase your energy levels.

3) Act on your resolutions
Research has shown a strong link between healthy behaviours and depression. Individuals who exhibit healthy behaviours such as exercising, not smoking and organizing had less depressed days than those whose behaviours were less than healthy and disorganized.

4) Make time for yourself
Each week, dedicate some time for yourself – as little as 30 minutes per day will go a long way. Plan activities that are relaxing and take time to participate in your favourite hobbies. Plan something that’s exciting to you — a weekend trip, a day at the spa, comedy show or dinner with friends.

5) Avoid binge drinking
Staying inside with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine may seem like an easy alternative to do in the winter months, and many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling this way. But alcohol is actually a physiological depressant and actually does not improve your mood. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting) is not a healthy choice.

6) Relax
You’re busy! Work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings. Everyone needs some time off. An important skill to have is the ability to say “No” to extra events so that you can slow down from your busy week. Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, take a bath, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, mental exercises and positive thinking can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy.

7) Embrace the season
Instead of always avoiding the cold and the snow, look for the best that it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like hiking, ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, curling, hockey, or even sledding! Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.

8) Social Support
The impact of a strong social support network cannot be overemphasized. Friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbours can be a great source of support and companionship throughout the year. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it.

9) Sufficient Sleep in a dark room
With our busy lives, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. With time management a little self-discipline, you can meet the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Make it a priority to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. Try not to oversleep as this will make you feel more tired.

10) Go outside and get some sun
Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D and improves your mood. Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less time outdoors. This lack of sunlight can lead to depressed mood. When at home, keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Try to spend more time outdoors.


Dr. L