Fit Tips: How to Beat the Winter Blues

Shoveling snow, scraping windshields and running from the car to the office burns calories, but after a while we give up and yearn for spring. This long, dark season not only causes frustration and hibernation – some 15 million people are affected by the depressive condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Fortunately, there are effective strategies to help combat the winter blues. Be prepared for the winter months to come with a few of these tips.

Get Moving for a Mood Boost: On below zero days, a couch, blanket and cranked thermostat are much more enticing than venturing outside to hit the gym. But here’s the deal: exercise can help banish your winter blues and shouldn’t be skipped. Whether you grab a basketball, a dumbbell or a yoga mat, a good sweat session releases feel-good brain chemicals that reduce depression and improve your mood. Plus, your metabolism and energy level will both stay elevated for a few hours after your workout. So brave the cold and move. It’s worth it.

Embrace the Season: Sure, winter can be a downer, but the snow also provides the opportunity for activity. Make the best out of a steady snow fall by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Even winter tasks have benefits. Snow shoveling might be a chore, but it's also a pretty strenuous workout and can burn more than 400 calories an hour.

Try Aromatherapy: Not the fancy essential oil type? Think again. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that aromatherapy can be an effective supplementary treatment for people with depressive symptoms. Try adding a couple drops of lavender, bergamot or jasmine essential oils to a diffuser, aroma lamp or a bath. 

Soak in the Sun: Winter days are cold, long and dark. This ultimately means a lack of a very important ingredient to wintertime happiness: sunlight. Time spent in the sun helps your body process Vitamin D and releases neurotransmitters that can boost your mood. Add a few extra outdoor activities to your week like a walk around the neighborhood. As for your home – keep your shades up during the day or use “full spectrum” light bulbs to replicate natural light indoors. 

Treat Yourself: Endless winter days are no fun. Everyone is happier when they are looking forward to an exciting event on the horizon. Plan a guys or girls night out, a weekend getaway or a ski trip. If you want to indulge on your own, a massage has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase serotonin and dopamine, which are depression-fighting chemicals. Laugh, relax or escape to keep the winter blues away.