Are you suffering from winter blues? Then read more about the causes and symptoms of winter blues here. Also, discover 7 handy tips to overcome your winter blues!
What are winter blues?
You can speak of winter blues if you suffer from a predominantly gloomy mood and a lack of energy in winter. If you suffer from depressive symptoms for at least two winters in a row, but not during the rest of the year, you may be suffering from winter depression, a more severe form of winter blues. In English, winter depression is also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), indicating that it is a depression related to the change of seasons. In this article, we describe the less severe but somewhat more common winter blues. We look at the causes and symptoms, but most importantly, what you can do to overcome your winter blues!
What are the causes of winter blues?
Researchers are not yet completely agreed on the exact causes of winter blues. Winter blues are most likely caused by the decrease in daylight during the winter months. The days are shorter, reducing your exposure to daylight, and the sun usually shines less often than in other seasons. In some people, this can trigger physical and mental effects, which could explain the symptoms of winter blues or winter depression.
According to some experts, your so-called biological clock can get confused during the dark winter months, affecting your sleep-wake rhythm, mood, and energy levels, among other things. Your biological clock is not an organ, but consists of a group of neurons in your hypothalamus. Among other things, it influences when you feel awake and energetic, or sleepy and sluggish. In the winter months, disruption of the biological clock could cause you to feel sleepy during the day and not feel like doing things.
Melatonin and serotonin
Some experts suspect that the dark winter months may disrupt the production of hormones like melatonin (which affects your sleep rhythm) and serotonin (which affects your mood). This could also explain why you feel tired and a bit down in winter.
In dark, cold, and rainy weather, you may tend to stay indoors more. This also affects your mood and energy levels and can lead to some of the symptoms of winter blues. After all, if you don’t leave your house much, you are also less exposed to daylight, fresh air, socializing, and exercise. These are important for feeling fit, healthy, and happy, especially in winter. One or more of these causes can lead to the symptoms of winter blues or, to a worse extent, winter depression.
What are the symptoms of winter blues?
If you suffer from the following symptoms during the winter months, you may be suffering from winter blues:
- Feeling gloomy most of the time
- Feeling tired and low on energy
- Feeling listless and less willing to do anything
- Feeling irritable or more susceptible to stress
- Sleeping too much and having more trouble getting up
- Noticing changes in your diet and weight, e.g., craving more carbohydrates
Winter depression is a worse and rarer variant of winter blues and otherwise has the same symptoms as regular depression but only occurs in the winter months. If you suffer greatly from this and struggle to function well in winter, contact your GP to discuss options for treating your winter depression. The tips below may not be sufficient then.
7 Tips to Overcome Your Winter Blues!
1. Try to exercise a little more
Exercise is one of the best natural remedies for the winter blues. Exercise automatically makes your body produce hormones that make you feel happier and give you more energy. Exercising outdoors has the added benefit of exposing you to extra daylight and fresh air. When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to get moving. Therefore, choose an activity you really enjoy, such as dancing or playing outside with children or pets. It also helps to go cycling or hiking with friends or family members. Social contact counteracts your winter blues and others can help you get into action.
2. Maintain a regular sleep-wake rhythm
The winter blues can affect your sleep-wake rhythm. Some people have trouble falling asleep or difficulty getting up, while others prefer to sleep all day. The best advice is to maintain a regular sleep-wake rhythm. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day to improve the quality of your sleep and your mood and energy levels during the day. It also allows you to get as much daylight as possible every day (provided you sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light). Don’t sleep much longer than necessary, and prefer to go outside for a walk if you feel sleepy.
3. Try light therapy if you suffer from winter blues
Especially if you suffer from winter blues, regular exposure to daylight is essential. So try to go outside as much as possible, especially around noon when sunlight is strongest. Being outside in daylight for at least 30 minutes every day can already reduce your winter blues, even on cloudy days. Sit near the window if you have to be inside, so you still catch natural light. On some days, insufficient daylight is available. Then light therapy can help.
Special daylight lamps are available for this purpose. They give off brighter light, with more different wavelengths, than regular lamps. In most cases, you need to sit in front of such a lamp for about 20 to 30 minutes to notice the effect. Generally, morning is the best time for this. The light can trigger chemical reactions in your brain that can reduce your symptoms of winter blues. For some people, this form of light therapy is not suitable. This may apply, for example, to people with eye conditions or people taking certain medications or herbs that make them more sensitive to light, such as antibiotics or St. John’s wort. Ideally, consult your GP before using a daylight lamp, also to find out which lamp is best, what light intensity is suitable for you, and how long you should use the lamp per session.
Light alarm clock
Some people with winter blues also benefit greatly from a light alarm clock. This slowly starts giving off more and more light before you have to get up, helping you wake up gradually, just as the rising sun would do in the other seasons.
4. Overcome winter blues with vitamin D
Sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D. According to some experts, vitamin D deficiency can also cause depressive symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether you are vitamin D deficient and whether you can take supplements to bring your vitamin D levels to the right level. In any case, make sure you catch as much sunlight as possible and also consider adding some more foods with vitamin D to your diet, such as oily fish and eggs.
5. Maintain your social contacts
When you feel gloomy and tired, you may feel less inclined to socialize. However, it is worth maintaining your social contacts and meeting up with your favorite friends and family members. Research shows that isolation can trigger depression. Let your loved ones know about your predisposition to winter blues and depression, and they may contact you regularly to check how you are doing. Consider signing up for mood-boosting activities, such as sports or dance classes, or interesting courses before the winter months. This way, you will have a reason to get out and about even during winter.
6. Treat yourself occasionally if you suffer from winter blues
You can also alleviate the symptoms of winter blues by pampering yourself during the winter months. Schedule an appointment at a spa or sauna, treat yourself to a visit to the hairdresser or beauty salon, or have a massage. Of course, you can also take a hot shower or (foot) bath at home with your favorite skincare products, followed by a mask or massage with essential oils (diluted in a base oil). Aromatherapy can also have a positive effect on the symptoms of winter blues. Lavender oil, in particular, can help against a gloomy mood, anxiety, or stress, and can also aid in sleep problems. Peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil can be invigorating if you are sleepy or have low energy, while rosemary oil can make you feel clear-headed. You can also try orange oil for a happy, summery feeling!
7. Make sure you maintain a healthy diet
According to studies, the winter blues can make you crave more food, especially carbohydrates. When you feel lethargic, it may be tempting to reach for easy, unhealthy meals. However, high-carbohydrate meals or fast food may not counteract your symptoms of winter blues and may even worsen them. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy diet. Make sure you eat food with enough protein, B vitamins, and omega 3, as you need these to allow your brain to produce the neurotransmitters that keep your mood and energy levels balanced. Getting enough vitamins and minerals also helps you feel fit, making it easier to do the other things that help you overcome your winter blues, such as going outside, exercising, and engaging in social activities. Vitamins and minerals from food are generally better than those from supplements. With our juices, you can get healthy nutrients from fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices in a quick and easy way. Check out the Energy, Reboot, Fuel, Boost, Recharge and, of course, Sunny juices!