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By: The Safety Mom, Alison Jacobson
Posted on: Jan 18, 2019

Five Tips to Beat the January Blues & Improve Mental Health

Feeling a bit depressed and lethargic? Is the weather having an impact on your mental health? ‘Tis the season. The "January" or winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. This is different than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change in seasons.

Both winter blues and SAD have many common symptoms and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two without seeking professional counseling. But most cases are indeed winter blues. In fact, 14% of Americans suffer from it.

If you find yourself in a funk, tired and not wanting to socialize the winter blues are probably affecting your mental health and here are some tips for getting yourself back on track:

Get outside – One of the major culprits of the winter blues is the decrease in the natural light in the fall and winter months. Less natural lights are associated with a host of issues including a dip in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mode, and alterations in melatonin, a hormone which is associated with mood and sleep. It’s important to get outside and grab some rays whenever possible as a benefit to your mental health. Even if it’s cold bundle up and talk a walk during lunch, play with your kids outside or take your dog for a long walk.

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Exercise – Sure, it’s hard to get motivated to get to the gym when it’s freezing outside but push yourself. Exercise can increase serotonin and endorphins, which both affect mood and mental health. You’ll also find that once you get into a habit of exercising your body will literally crave it. If you don’t belong to a gym take a hike, do an exercise video at home even run up and down stairs several times. Anything to get your heart rate going will help.

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Eat right – When it’s cold we crave comfort food which you consist of tons of carbs. Make sure you’re including a good array of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains in your diet. Soups and stews are also comfort food and can pack in the nutrients! One bonus – dark chocolate can reduce anxiety and enhance your mood – just don’t overdo it.

Choose a great playlist – Music can have a powerful effect on our emotions. It can influence our heart rate, triggering the release of hormones, stimulating the immune system, and boosting the brain’s cognitive and emotional centers. There’s no right or wrong when choosing your playlist -whatever you enjoy that gets you going can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Stay warm: It’s been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by as much as half. Being cold has a negative effect on your mood and has been proven to make you more depressed. So, stay warm while you’re outside soaking up the rays, work up a sweat exercising and eat some healthy warm food! Even better do these things with a friend – socializing increases your happiness as well.

However you choose to conquer the January blues, just make sure you stay on top of improving your mental health and seek professional help if you need it. Hang in there - it won't be long before sunshine and warm days will have us all smiling again!