Well, it’s happening, people. The winter is on its way here and the worst part —besides the cold temps, the need for snow boots (depending on what neck of the world you live in), the flu, and the fact that you need to invest in a new hat every two weeks, because you keep leaving yours at a bar — is the effect that this time of year has on our mental health.
As the days shorten up and the summer becomes a very distant memory, it’s just a matter of time until you’re bed-bound wondering when spring will come back. Well, it’s a long way off at this point, so you better start preparing for the impending winter, and it’s going to be a doozy.
Since taking care of your mental health should be the top of your list this year, it’s time to start making the necessary changes in preparation for it. Here are the seven ways to take care of your mental health as the temperatures just continue to drop.
1. Enjoy the sunlight while you still can.
Although the days are getting shorter every single day, you still have time to enjoy the sunlight a little longer. Since we’re sneaking up on that time of year where it’s dark when you leave work at night, then get up a little earlier to walk or bike to work and be out in the sun. Or, if you can, leave your office and eat lunch outside. Sure, it might be chilly in 60-degree weather, but that’s nothing compared to the 30-degree weather that’s on its way.
2. Load up on the vitamin D.
As the days get too cold to enjoy those outside lunches and the darkness just starts to close in with not just short days, but cloudy, grey winter days, then you want to turn to vitamin D. Vitamin D isn’t just great for bones and teeth, but it keeps your mental health in check by activating the brain function associated with dopamine and serotonin. It also helps to strengthen immune systems, so you can ideally avoid the added misery that comes with getting the cold or flu.
3. Make an effort to be more social.
I know, I know – I, too, am the last person who wants to venture out and be social, but the fact remains that surrounding yourself with loved ones is great for your mental health. As those days get shorter, try to get out there at least once or twice a week to be around your friends. It will make you feel less alone and will keep your brain feeling good. Also, people with friends tend to live longer than those who do not.
4. Find yourself a project.
Since we’re all about stimulating your brain and fighting against the evils of winter, it’s important to get a project. Whether the project is starting that book you always wanted to write, joining a class with a friend, or maybe completely reorganizing your apartment because the cold weather makes you want to stay inside, then go for it. Keep your brain active and focused.
5. Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
A study from earlier this year found that omega-3 fatty acids can help fight depression – no matter what season it is. Flaxseeds and walnuts are a great source for them, as are fish, edamame, and grass-fed beef.
6. Get out there and exercise.
To quote Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands.” She totally has a point. People who exercise are actually mentally healthier than those who do not. So as much as it might pain you to bundle up to head to the gym, remember it’s because you don’t want to deal with those winter blues.
7. Meditate regularly.
Although, honestly, I prefer therapy, for those who aren't keen on therapy, when the winter has you locked inside and you're stuck with your thoughts, practicing meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can get your brain back on track. Having tried meditation, I can admit that it isn't easy, but as is the case with everything, practice makes perfect. And if it means making sure your mental health gets through the winter in one piece, then it’s definitely worth a try. You have nothing to lose.