(StatePoint) Sniffles and flu are not the only afflictions of winter. Many people find that the dark and cold days can impact their mood. In fact, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately 10 million Americans, and another 10 to 20 percent of the public may have mild SAD, according to Psychology Today.
Coupled with busy lives, the winter blues can put extra strain on one’s relationships and psyche. Luckily there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to help lead a happier, less stressful life during winter.
Feeling blue can be compounded by unhealthy habits. Limit alcohol and get plenty of rest to feel your best. Eat foods beneficial to brain health, such as those that contain omega 3 fatty acids.
Be sure to exercise daily, as physical activity can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain. While the days may be shorter, try to take advantage of the sunlight each day with a brisk walk at lunch -- remember to bundle up though, a winter cold is never fun!
One of the causes of winter blues is light deprivation. If you have a fireplace, counteract the shorter days by adding a fire to your daily routine.
Dinner, reading, relaxing, watching TV, and even working can seem more enjoyable by adding the light and warmth of a fire, say the statistics. Indeed, 89 percent of people say having a fire is extremely important, important or somewhat important to their wintertime quality of life, according to a recent survey jointly conducted by the American Institute of Stress (AIS) and Duraflame, which creates fire-related products, including fire logs and fire starters.
A fire can offer stress relief, creating an opportunity to gather friends and family in a relaxing ambiance. Whether you’re alone or with a group, consider making it a hassle-free experience by using a manufactured fire log, which produces robust, bright flames and burns significantly cleaner and more efficiently than a typical wood fire.
Take a Breather
Consider setting aside more time each day to mentally and physically recuperate. Nearly 60 percent of people take an hour a day or less to wind down and relax, according to the AIS and Duraflame survey, and more probably should.
Try this quick stress relief exercise, “The Quieting Reflex,” recommended by Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch, president of AIS:
• Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth, relaxing your facial muscles. Think of something heartwarming or amusing while you do this. This starts to counter stress immediately.
• Next think of the expression: “Alert Mind, Calm Body” to counter negative thoughts.
• Slowly take a deep breath while visualizing it as warm air coming in from pores, or holes opening up in the bottom of your feet and slowly moving up into your lungs.
• While you exhale, visualize a wave of warmth and relaxation slowly flowing through your body exiting through your feet, like the spreading warmth you feel when sitting by the fireplace.
You can’t control the seasons, but by being proactive, you can get back to enjoying your winters.