How to Beat the Winter Blues
Published January 31, 2023
Cheryln Stover, LMHC, Director of Counseling Services, provided the Bastyr community with tips on how to combat the winter blues as we enter the month of February.
The winter months can be challenging mental health wise for many people. Colder weather, less sunlight, and more rainy days lead to a change in mood. What can be done to help stave off some of these winter blues?
Back to the Basics
Research supports three behaviors to reduce seasonal depression. Focus on improving your sleep, eating habits and exercise. We are all guilty of becoming discouraged by this – Ms. Stover suggests setting small goals that move you in the right direction. Substitute one unhealthy snack a day with something healthier, like an apple and peanut butter, or hummus and carrots. Commit to 30 minutes of no screen time before bed each day. Try and incorporate one 15-minute walk into your day. Big goals lead to frustration – if you keep it small and keep it up for 30 days, it’s a new habit!
Another important element that reduces depression is to spend time developing trustworthy relationships. It may be that we gravitate towards spending time alone when we are feeling blue, but spending time building your relationships also helps us feel better. Start small; A few minutes with tea and a friend will change your day for the better.
Try a light box.
Try purchasing a light box and pairing it with a window to achieve optimal light. The use of light boxes will trigger neurotransmitters and have a positive impact on mood. They range in cost from $25-$125.
Replace, don’t avoid.
I’m sure you’ve been told by someone to “stop thinking about it!” But research shows that’s impossible – once a thought has entered your brain, it’s there. We can’t stop a thought – but we can replace it. Our brains will accept a new thought. Choose a positive thought that gives you a future and a direction to go. This kind of thought can lead to a reduction in anxiety.
Incorporate mindfulness and meditation.
There are so many apps, playlists, and books on meditation. Most meditations have the goal of resetting your parasympathetic nervous system to put you in a more relaxed state. Try breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding for seven seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds. Continue this pattern for two minutes.
A brief word on anxiety
Anxiety is fear based. It can feel like the right choice to shut out the source of anxiety through distraction, but if we take action instead of avoiding the source of anxiety, often your mental health fairs better than freezing and doing nothing.
Taking care of your mental health during the winter months is of utmost importance! Students at Bastyr may schedule an appointment with the Bastyr Counseling Center. For members of the general public, schedule an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle or Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego.