5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
- Written by Makayla Vermette
Winter brings long nights and short days. And with the fun and festivities of the winter holidays in the past, many people find themselves feeling a little down. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, almost 15% of Canadians experience some form of the “winter blues” or periods of low mood that result from reduced sunlight and cold weather.1
long nights and short days
Childhood educators’ well-being is strongly connected to the capacity for providing high-quality education and care. While the winter blues is not a medical diagnosis,2 it can make working with children feel more challenging. This is why prioritizing your well-being during the winter months is crucial, for both you and the children in your classroom.
Tips to Beat the Blues
1) Catch Up on Your Vitamin D!
Vitamin D is essential for building strong, healthy bones and fighting diseases. Research also suggests that there is a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and our mood, where daily exposure to sunlight can effectively reduce depressive symptoms by increasing the production of vitamin D throughout the body.3 However, during the winter months in Canada, the angle of the sun does not produce vitamin D in our skin as it does in the summer. In the winter we rely on foods & supplements such as:4
- Egg Yolk
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, & trout)
- 2-3 servings of milk and/or vitamin D fortified soy beverage
- Daily vitamin D supplements
2) Move to Beat the Blues
Another way to combat the winter blues is by engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.5 Doing so reduces the risk of disease, enhances sleep, and increases chemicals in the brain that improve mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. There are many fun winter activities to help you meet your physical activity needs, such as ice skating, sledding, snow-shoeing, and building a snowman.
3) Practice Mindful Eating
Food choices play a crucial role in regulating our mood and contribute to our overall health and well-being. Although it is important to consume a balanced diet, it is just as important to be aware of how we eat.
Practice mindful eating by:6
- Avoiding distractions
- Engaging all 5 senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound).
- Savoring small bites, and chew thoroughly and fully experience the food’s flavors.
Check out our Blog on Mindful Eating for more tips and resources.
4) Connect with Yourself & Others
Taking time to relax can be another helpful way to reduce the effects of the winter blues. Maybe this looks like engaging in a creative hobby, reading a book, or meditating to decompress after a heavy emotional day at work.
Alternatively, spending quality time with friends and family is another effective way to enhance our mood. Research shows that individuals who are socially engaged are at a reduced risk of depression and anxiety compared to those who are socially isolated.7
5) Don't Hesitate to Access Support
When experiencing periods of low mood, mental health resources can be useful tools, but we might not know where to start. Alberta Health Services has a variety of easily-accessible mental health resources to suit your needs and help you manage stress during the winter months, such as:
Prioritize your health and well-being during the winter months to support yourself and the people in your life. Take advantage of winter activities to keep moving, connect with nature, enjoy the fresh air and sunlight, and spend time with loved ones to beat the blues!
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020). Winter blues 101. Retrieved February 21 from, https://cmha.ca/news/winter-blues-101/#_ftnref1
NIH (2013) Beat the Winter Blues: Shedding Light on Seasonal Sadness. Retrieved February 26 from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/01/beat-winter-blues
Thomas, J., & Al-Anouti, F. (2018). Sun exposure and behavioural activation for hypovitaminosis D and depression: A controlled pilot study. Community Mental Health Journal, 54, 860-856. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-017-0209-5
Alberta Medical Association., Alberta Health Services. (n.d.). Vitamin D. Retrieved February 21 from, https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/wf/lab/wf-lab-ama-ahs-vitamin-d-sheet.pdf
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (n.d.). Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for adults aged 18-54 years: An integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Retrieved February 21 from, https://csepguidelines.ca/downloads/
Alberta Health Services. (n.d.). Enjoy your meal experience. Retrieved February 21 from, https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-enjoy-your-meal-experience.pdf
Weziak-Bialowolksa, D., Bialowolski, P., Lee, M. T., Chen, Y., VanderWeele, T. J., & McNeely, E. (2022). Prospective associations between social connectedness and mental health. Evidence from a longitudinal survey and health insurance claims data. International Journal Public Health, 67, https://doi.org/10.3389/ijph.2022.1604710