You are seven times more likely to get the winter blues if you live in Montana as opposed to southern California. Winter blues are a physiological response to reduced sunlight. It affects you physically, as serotonin is reduced and melatonin is increased. But there are ways to fight it, regardless of where you reside.
As temperatures drop and the sun fades more each day, you tend to stay indoors more and socialize less. Thus are the beginnings of winter blues. The symptoms are typical.
- wanting to sleep more
- lacking motivation
- craving more calories
- feeling sluggish
- feeling moody
- feeling depressed
Sadly, the more you close yourself in your home, the more intense the blues become. Understanding and foresight is the first step to preventing the condition.
Nature made us this way
If you watch any nature shows involving winter, it becomes obvious why we like to remain sheltered most of the winter! Bears hibernate, birds migrate and animals remaining above ground fatten themselves as much as possible prior to the first snowfall.
It is no wonder you tend to hide as well. But since you still have jobs or schools to attend and rent to pay, you still need to be active and strong – mentally and physically.
Why do you overeat in winter?
- Your body burns calories in frigid temperatures.
- You tend to be less active. When it is cold, folks tend to call it a day after sundown.
- Though you probably do not realize it, you still sweat a lot. Dehydration is often confused with hunger. You still need that eight cups of water each day!
- You miss the sun and are looking for an alternative in comfort food.
A few good habits go a long way
Humans were fine-tuned over the millennias to cower down in caves and slumber away a good portion of the ice age winter months. But it is no longer necessary. Our homes keep us warm and food is available year-round. But now, we must change our way of thinking.
Falling snow opens a door of new activities; skiing, snowshoeing, sled riding. But you might not enjoy the cold much. So if you normally bicycle, jog or have other activities outside, you benefit from finding new ones indoors.
Take the stairs – If you work or live above the first floor, avoid the elevator. At first, it may take you a while to remember. But every minute you spend in exercise each day helps your overall mental and physical health.
Find some sunlight – Recall the rays of the sun release serotonin. Even if you are not exercising in it, when the sun shines, spend a few minutes with your face pointed in its direction. If there is no sun to be had where you are in winter (Alaska, perhaps), then one option is the use of light therapy boxes. They help boost your psyche.
It is recommended by most doctors that exercise of at least 30 minutes three times a week is necessary. But if you do little things every day to raise your heart rate; i.e., walking up and down a few flights of stairs at a time, parking further from your home or work and walking a few blocks each way, and practicing yoga or performing a short workout each morning or evening, the results may surprise you.
For example, if you are constantly looking for a few minutes of exercise here and there, it adds up. And since it is more often than three times a week, skipping an opportunity once or twice will not be as much of a loss as one-third of your weekly total would be.
- Lasting meals. Take your time. Eat the warm entrée when you arrive home. Later, have a small dessert and enjoy it slowly. If you still crave more, eat a salad with raisins or apples sprinkled over it.
- Use a Crockpot. Make a hearty stew. It is exponentially more healthy than canned soups.
- Choose mood-boosting snacks. Blueberries help your brain synthesize dopamine. It is a feel-good molecule. Dark chocolate actually releases a chemical that is associated with being in love – when taken in moderation.
- When making pies, use sugar substitutes – honey or fresh fruit, not Splenda. Choose yogurt over butter in recipes and omit the crust on top.
- Holidays. For the visiting kids or Halloween, buy something you do not like. You will not be tempted by leftovers! Serve fresh fruits instead of ice cream for the big meals.
- Always shop after a meal. You can easily talk yourself out of the junk food aisles.
It is up to you
It always has been your choice. And when you tell yourself you will get fat over winter or from Thanksgiving to Christmas, then you probably will. When you make conscious decisions, they are usually the right ones. And you know what they are; you just have to form new habits. Breaking an old one is tough, so know that it will take effort. When you stumble, do not worry about that moment, and you will not continue a downward spiral.
Winter used to mean gaining a lot of weight so the species could make it through the season. Now, it just means slowing down a little. But you don't have to lose your happiness and health along the way.