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January 21, 2016

Beating the Winter Blues

By: Kim Palka

For many, the cold grey days of winter can make it harder to get out of bed in the morning. Feeling lethargic and lacking motivation or enthusiasm often times accompany the “winter blues.” Humans are physically and emotionally affected by the sunlight, or the lack thereof. For a lot of us, taking our Environmental Wellness into account can help us to boost our overall happiness and energy levels.

Here are 5 simple ideas to improve the quality of your mood through your environment

Exercise: On top of gaining fitness, we can use exercise to cut down on stress and build energy. Exercise has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety, improve memory and improve overall mood. Lucky for you, the fitness center at Emerald Heights is open 24 hours a day and has staff that wants to meet with you for a free initial consultation. Initial consultations are a great tool if you are having trouble getting started. Give Kim Palka (Fitness Program Coordinator, 425-556-8226) a call to set up an appointment.

Make your Environment Brighter: It is harder to get our sunlight fix in the winter with shorter, darker days, so we have to work at getting our vitamin D when we can. Keep your shades up during the day, or maybe consider using “full spectrum” light bulbs in your home to mimic natural light. Take a walk on the trail, or on the sidewalk around campus to get an extra mood boost. Sunlight exposure and exercise release neurotransmitters in your brain that can have a positive affect on your mood (source: healthline.com).

Listen to Music: Throw on some tunes! A lot of us already use music to cheer us up, but did you know it has been scientifically proven to help make you happier? A 2013 study at the University of Missouri showed listening to music can help boost your mood. Researchers found individuals can indeed successfully try to be happier, and cheery music helps.

Get Social Support: Humans are a social species, and social isolation has actually been shown to increase production of stress hormones (source: Mather Lifeways). In addition to the social and intellectual benefits you will get, interacting with others creates opportunities for fun, new perspectives and distraction from damaging and stressful processes, such as worry and brooding. As an added bonus, people who are social are at a lower risk for dementia!

Relax: Meetings, events, work, family, friends, appointments; even if you enjoy being busy, you also need some time to rest. Engaging in self-care and relaxation can help alleviate stress and improve mood. Read a good book, take a bath, try some mindful meditation, get a massage, manicure or pedicure at Elements, or pick something else that takes care of you and gives you a break from your normal activities. Be aware that occasionally, you may need to say “No” to extra opportunities in order to be sure you have some time for yourself.

If you feel like you might be suffering from more than just “the blues”, seeking professional help is the best option. Feeling hopeless, losing interest in things you normally enjoy, feeling overly fatigued and having trouble concentrating in conjunction with changes in the season are just a few things people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may experience. Make sure you consult with your doctor or other medical professional if you think you have symptoms like the ones mentioned above.