As we settle in with a snowstorm and frigid temperatures here in Minnesota, many of us are having to fight off the winter blues. After all the excitement of the holidays have passed, we settle into the long slog of winter. Those New Year’s resolutions may start to seem like unrealistic aspirations. Residing in northern latitudes adds more difficulties in getting outside and coping with shortened days. What can we do to survive and maybe even thrive for these few months before the promise of spring returns to the great white north?
Being intentional about getting exposure to light can be very helpful. Get outside as much as possible. There are also light boxes that have been shown to improve mood for those sensitive to the lack of light. Also supplement your diet with Vitamin D. Most adults in northern climes are deficient in this crucial Vitamin which is important for bone and muscle health, but also just makes you feel better.
Sticking with an exercise program has been shown to keep the negative thoughts away. This happens by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels which help mood, and by supporting nerve cell growth. Dr. Miller from Harvard University reported that exercise improves nerve cell connections in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which helps regulate mood.¹
Moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost.² You may need to modify your typical exercise with challenging weather, but think about taking the stairs or walking the halls of your apartment building, going for a walk at a mall, or trying a new class at the gym to mix it up.
Other healthy lifestyle choices also help limit the impact of the winter blues. These include having a regular schedule for sleeping and eating, avoiding excessive consumption of high starch or high sugar foods, and keeping in touch with your friends and family.
About 14% of Americans experience the winter blues. A more serious form of depression, most common in the north, is Seasonal Depressive Disorder, which affects about 6% of Americans. When your poor mood starts affecting all areas of your life, you may benefit from professional help that may include cognitive therapy and/or medication. ²
Know that you are not alone in coping with poor mood this time of year. There are some proven options to help fend off the winter blues. If you can get through the next few weeks of winter, you will be on our way to the longer days and sunshine of spring!
Alana Howey, PT, MS, OCS
Live Your LifeTM
Bringing Physical Therapy & Wellness to You!
Alana Howey, PT, MS, OCS graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN in 1985 with a B.A. biology degree. She went on to study at Texas Woman’s University and graduated with a MS in physical therapy in 1987. She has over 25 years of practice in Minnesota. The bulk of her career she has been practicing in outpatient orthopedic physical therapy, treating a wide range of client ages and challenges. She developed a specialty in treating temporomandibular dysfunction, headaches and cervical dysfunction. She also applies a more holistic approach to rebalancing the entire body system with postural restoration for complex, multi-joint challenges. She received a board certification as a clinical specialist in orthopedics in 1999 and was recertified in 2009.
Alana loves guiding clients to reach their goals and aspire to higher potential! She is excited to meet people in their homes to make a specialized program work for them.
When not working, Alana is kept busy with her husband and two daughters. She loves to garden, bike, travel, and take long hikes with her dog.
¹ “Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression”. Harvard Health Letter. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression. Accessed Jan 2019.
² “More Than Just the Winter Blues?” Rush. https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues. Accessed Jan 2019