How to maintain good mental health during the winter season
The third Monday of January has been labeled Blue Monday – the excitement of the holiday season has faded, it is extremely cold outside, the stress of trying to implement your New Year’s resolutions has set in, and your holiday credit card statements have finally made an appearance – a perfect storm of factors marking Monday, January 15th as one the most depressing days of the year.
While Blue Monday has proven to be a myth, the ‘winter blues’ are all too real. Research in Ontario suggests that 15 percent of the general population have experienced the winter blues, which can include changes in appetite and lethargy as the days grow shorter.
The winter blues differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects about two percent of the population and is a serious form of depression.
So what can you do to help avoid those Winter Blues this winter season?
It’s time to get out and enjoy what winter has to offer!
It is so important for your mental health to stay active and social in the winter time. As the days are shorter and the air is colder people tend to be less energetic and motivated. It is very easy to hibernate yourself inside and miss out on countless opportunities for fun and social interactions with friends and family.
Here are 6 ways that we suggest to help combat the blues this winter:
- Maximize exposure to sunlight.
- Spend more time outdoors during the day and arrange indoor environments to receive maximum sunlight. Trim tree branches that block light, for example, and keep curtains open during the day. Move furniture to sit near a window.
- Social Interaction
- Spending time with friends and family is a great way to lighten your mood and keep up with social interactions you would normally have in the warmer months. There are tons of ways to build and maintain your social networks throughout the winter, whether it is a skating trip with friends or a games night at home with family. Enjoy the offerings of the winter season!
- Physical activity is one of the best ways to increase endorphins and serotonin, generating a happier and healthier mood. However, cold weather is not always appealing for many people to go out and get some physical activity in. Still there are tons of ways to get exercise in the winter season such as: joining a gym class, doing some exercises at home, joining a recreational sports league or make a habit of taking a daily noon-hour walk.
- Personal Hobbies
- Personal hobbies are a great way to do something for you! If you cannot enjoy the hobby you would normally do in warmer weather, utilize the time you have for something that you can do and enjoy during the winter season. There are countless options; whether it is starting a new book, a craft, a winter sport or an activity at a local community centre.
- Explore Nature
- Canada is such a beautiful country and everyone should enjoy what it has to offer though all seasons. Getting outside is one of the best things you can do to lighten your mood and feel more like yourself. Exposure to nature has a multitude of mental health benefits such as: reducing stress, anxiety and depression and it increases social engagement and personal wellbeing. So it is time to get outside this winter and make a snowman, go skiing, tobogganing or throw some snowballs and enjoy nature this season.
- Eat Well
- Always remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle even if you aren’t as physically active as you are in warmer weather. Maintaining a healthy diet will aid in keeping you feeling physically and mentally healthy. For example, vitamin D is great for bone and teeth health, it improves brain function through increased serotonin and endorphin levels and will also keep your immune system strong to combat winter colds.
The Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin wants to help keep you healthy and happy this winter season. We want to get you, your friends and families out and enjoying what this winter season has to offer within your communities.
The prevalence of the winter blues highlights the need to make our mental health a priority throughout the year. However, there’s not enough mental health and addictions resources in the province. That’s why CMHA Ontario’s Erase the Difference campaign is encouraging people to sign a petition educating candidates in this year’s provincial election about the need to fund mental health the same as physical health.
To sign the petition and get more information about the campaign, go to www.erasethedifference.ca.
Here are some great resources to see what is happening within your communities and how you can get involved:
Winter Activity Calendars
Region of Peel
50 Essential Winter Activities for Families (Article)