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The “Winter Blues”

There’s usually lots of joy around the holidays, but as the winter months wane on, many people start feeling… “blah.”

You may feel less motivated to get things done or maybe you lack the desire for self-improvement, reaching your goals, etc.

Those motivated feelings sometimes spike around New Years, but for many they drop off a few weeks later as you continue to stay inside, relax, and procrastinate all of the things you want to get done.

Seasons of life are normal. Sometimes you’re in “grind mode” for a few months, and then you let yourself rest and coast for a month until your grind mode comes back full force.

However, some people never get that “grind mode” back during the winter time.

Putting aside depression, anxiety, etc., is there a point when the feeling of “blah” may be related to something else entirely?

Thankfully there has been extensive research on this very topic. But first let’s take a look at some things you may be feeling.

“Winter Blues” Feelings

  1. Feeling sad or listless a lot of the day

  2. Losing interest in activities you enjoy

  3. Having low energy and feeling sluggish

  4. Sleeping too much, extra feelings of tiredness

  5. Increased cravings, overeating, and weight gain

  6. Feeling hopeless, guilty

What’s Causing the “Winter Blues”

**Disclaimer: I am not diagnosing anyone with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In fact, only about 4% of the US population is diagnosed with this disorder. This is simply a researched framework to help you understand how the winter may be affecting you. Knowing the possible source of something can help you combat it.

When fall and winter roll around we typically start to see less sunshine. Whether it’s from us staying inside more as the weather gets colder, or it’s simply that there’s less activities taking place outdoors.

You no longer have to spend all day Saturday at the soccer fields with the kids, the grass has stopped growing so your evenings aren’t spent pulling weeds and mowing, and it’s getting darker earlier which means no more BBQ’s and yard games.

So rather than going outdoors, you curl up on your couch and watch tv a few extra nights a week or you start reading more books indoors. But unbeknownst to you, it’s this natural gravitation towards the indoors that can actually begin to have a negative impact on us.

We always hear that sunlight helps boost our vitamin D. But what a lot of people don’t know is that sunlight also boosts our hormone called Serotonin.

Serotonin is a hormone that helps to raise our feelings of happiness, it stabilizes our moods, and it helps to keep our feelings of well-being level.

As people start to head indoors and spend less time in the sun, their Serotonin levels naturally drop. It’s this drop in Serotonin that can cause those “winter blues” that so many people detest.

Another theory behind the seasonal blues is that in the winter months our circadian rhythm gets interrupted (this is our body’s natural alarm clock). It’s what helps us keep a healthy sleep schedule so that we are alert when we need to be and drowsy when it’s time for bed.

However, as the winter months drag on we see less sun, so our circadian rhythm may start to get out of whack for some people. They want to go to bed earlier and wake up later, which causes them to have too much sleep. Leading to feelings of drowsiness and less motivation.

How to Combat Your Winter Blues

1. Prioritize social activities

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely not feeling motivated to get out and get social. Try making a goal to see someone at least once or twice a week that you wouldn't normally see. You may not be excited leading up to it, but the added interaction can do wonders for your mental state.

2. Stick to a set schedule

Having trouble sleeping is a common problem when it comes to winter months. Rather than staying up late watching tv and sleeping in late to compensate, try sticking to a routine of going to bed at a decent time and waking up before the sun (which isn’t as difficult during the winter).

This not only exposes you to more sun, but it also helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.

3. Prioritize working out

Working out helps release a plethora of great hormones that can help improve your mood and well being. These hormones include endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Not only will it release those “feel good” hormones, but it also helps regulate your sleep schedule, loosen up your muscles, and can make you feel more productive.

4. Open your shades

Let the sunshine in! As we now know, being in the sun helps boost our serotonin, so even though you may not be inclined to go outside you can at least bring the outdoors in by opening up those shades.

5. Consider limiting alcohol intake

Most people feel like drinking more when they’re feeling down. Drinking while you’re not in a good mood can cause you to use this as a regular coping mechanism. Try to avoid alcohol when you’re not in a good mood, instead look at the next step for an alternative coping mechanism.

6. Journal your thoughts and feelings

Rather than trying to mask your feelings, try diving into them and figure out the cause. By getting your feelings on paper it can help you not only work through them, but also get them out so you don't dwell on them.

7. Get enough Vitamin D

Lack of vitamin D can lead to fatigue which can lead you to feel unmotivated, sleepy, and grouchy. Since you most likely aren’t getting your vitamin D from the sun this time of year, consider making sure you’re getting enough in your diet or through an over the counter supplement.

8. Recognize where your motivation is going

It’s not that you aren’t motivated, you’re just motivated to do other things.

For example, you may not feel like working on that work project, but you do feel like watching Grey’s Anatomy.

You don’t need motivation to do something, it’s just easier to do things when you have it.

But keep in mind, you can do things simply because they need to be done.

One thing that helps a lot of people is setting a short timer (say 20 minutes) to work on what needs to be done. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part, but once you get started you may be surprised when you realize you don’t want to stop.

9. Consider therapy

If it seems that your feelings of “blah” are starting to impact your life in a major way, consider seeking professional help. Having someone to work through these feelings can be a great way to get out of your funk.

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