May 14, 2021 —Now is the winter of our discontent.
–Richard III, William Shakespeare
For some people, though, every winter is one of discontent.
Whether that blah feeling is caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), post-holiday despondency, lack of exercise or ongoing depression, Chicago’s gray days and howling winds do nothing to alleviate them.
What are the winter blahs?
No matter what the cause, winter blues are exacerbated by that blah feeling suffered by Northerners this time of year. Its characteristics are:
- lack of motivation
- negative attitude
- rejection of change
- lack of creativity
- brain fog
- egocentric perspective
10 activities to get rid of the winter blahs
To get rid of the winter blues, try ridding yourself of the blahs first.
Muster the motivation to get started by engaging in these 10 activities:
#1. Exercise. No, you don’t have to drag your listless body to the gym. Play your favorite music so loudly you can feel it deep in your stomach and dance. Walk your dog instead of letting it go in the back yard. Go to the local museum and walk around all the exhibits. Drum on your oatmeal box or, if you’ve got them, bongos or djembes. If you can find a heated pool, you’ve really hit the jackpot. Every bit of exercise not only reduces your risk of mortality, it makes you happier and healthier.
#2. Brighten up. Sunlight and bright light boost levels of serotonin, a mood-boosting chemical, in your body. Serotonin eases both SAD and depression. If you don’t have a sunny window, consider a light box. Limited ultraviolet exposure in a tanning booth boosts serotonin levels and prevent vitamin D deficiency.
#3. Prevent vitamin D deficiency through nutrition or sun exposure. Direct sunlight on your skin for 10 minutes a day can prevent vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to depression, bone and tooth loss, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and more. If you’re tan or have darker skin, you’ll need more exposure to the sun.
Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish, such as mackerel, trout and salmon; portabella and maitake mushrooms; tofu; cheese; and fortified milk, orange juice and cereals. Cod liver oil and caviar also have a high percentage of vitamin D. An alternative is taking vitamin D supplements.
#4. Socialize. Even if you want to stay inside and snuggle up on your couch, don’t do it. Getting out and mingling with people prevents mental health problems, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
#5. Motivate yourself with dopamine. Evidence indicates dopamine reduces depression, helps with weight loss, and increases motivation. Dark chocolate causes your brain to release dopamine and serotonin. Fish, eggs, spirulina, red beets, and apples, all of which help balance dopamine levels.
#6. Volunteer. Volunteering increases socialization, reduces depression and maintains motivation.
#7. Make a commitment. Whether you make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape or decide to volunteer, write yourself a contract to help you follow through. You can even bet on weight loss at one of several websites where you win money if you lose (weight) or lose money if you don’t.
#8. Meditation relieves stress and increases motivation by improving focus and concentration.
#9. Stimulate yourself. Get rid of that wrapped-in-fog feeling by stimulating your senses. Go to a contemporary art museum, such as Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and check out abstract art. Try aromatherapy. Get a massage. Sample the Ethiopian cuisine at Den Den Restaurant in Uptown Chicago.
#10. Laugh. Laughter stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles and increases your intake of oxygen. It also boosts the endorphins released by your brain. If funny TV shows or Facebook cat videos aren’t doing it for you, watch one of the stand-up comedians at The pH Comedy Theater on Berwyn.
Get help for the blahs
No matter what you call it, if you continue to experience that blah feeling for more than two weeks, contact your doctor. Your doctor can diagnose exactly what your problem is and prescribe specific treatments for your case of the winter blahs.