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Winter Habits for Positive Mental Health

Jan 11, 2022

Winter Habits for Positive Mental Health

A long-time friend of mine just texted me from Grand Forks, North Dakota. He sent me a screenshot of their weather for the next five days. The lows ranged from -22 down to -29. With the windchill factored in the lows felt like -45. That’s cold and dreary weather.

I asked him what they did to keep from going crazy with weather like that. He said they had to work everyday just to keep from strangling each other. Troop morale is not great when it’s cold, windy, mostly cloudy, and seems like spring will never get here. There is even a medical term for the winter blues, it’s called Season Affective Disorder, or SAD.

There are many ways to combat SAD and keep our mental health positive. Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise – of course we knew that was going to be my first answer. Nothing feels better than getting a great workout on a super cold and dreary day. Work up a good sweat on a cardio workout, play some basketball or challenge ourselves pumping some iron. We can walk out of the gym with a new bounce in our step.
  2. Start that project or hobby we’ve been meaning to get going – stimulate the brain with new activity. Maybe we have wanted to clean out the spare room and get it ready for company. Perhaps learn to play chess or start an online painting class. Recently, I bought a small torpedo heater for my garage and did some long overdue sorting of my tools. I built a new workbench and found I had three of the exact same hammers.
  3. Get really, good clothing – this might sound obvious, but it feels good to have nice, warm clothing. During our cold winter months, I like to wear flannel lined jeans. I can walk outside and don’t feel the biting cold come through my pants. It makes a huge difference not feeling the winter wind. Visit an outdoor store like Cabela’s and purchase cold weather gear. Start with a down coat, warm gloves and hat, and then get a nice pair of insulated boots. It feels great to go out in the cold with clothing to keep you warm inside.
  4. Sit by a fire – get a fire going in the fireplace. If we don’t have a fireplace in the house, build a fire outside, preferably out of the wind. The warmth from the fire feels great and lifts away some of the seasonal moodiness that winter can bring.
  5. Get together with friends and share a meal – make it a potluck and give out food suggestions. Encourage people to bring their ingredients and do the cooking together. Tell stories and have great conversations while the food is being prepared and while it is cooking.
  6. Stock up on Vitamin D - Since we get most of our vitamin D from the sun, it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. So many diseases are correlated with low vitamin D levels, especially depression. The National Institutes of Health's recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) a day. However, many nutritionists recommend at least 5,000 IUs during the winter months.

These are just a few suggestions to chase away the winter blues. Stay positive and work these activities into our everyday lives. Make sure to hang with positive, active people during the winter months. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling