Feeling the winter blues? Here are six tips that can help banish them

Community July 31, 2018

Think you might have a case of the winter blues? You’re not alone. Over half of all Australians have difficulty waking up in the morning during winter, while 12 percent of us experience reduced energy when it’s chilly outside, according to McCrindle. Does that sound a little familiar? Here are a few ways you can get your mind and body back on track before spring.*

Get sunlight for at least one hour each day
The winter blues are often confused with “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, a condition that reportedly impacts 1 in 300 Australians. Nevertheless, thousands of Australians feel the sting of winter blues between June and August each year. With a combination of lower temperatures, dreary weather and shorter days, it can be difficult to get a glimpse of sunlight. But when the sun does show itself, you should definitely make the most of it.

Professor of Psychology Greg Murray of Swinburne University suggests that if you’re feeling the winter blues, getting at least one hour of sunlight, (preferably in the morning) should replenish your body’s levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital to help keep away feelings of depression, fatigue, and anxiety.

Fit in some outdoor exercise whenever possible
It’s well known that shorter days eat into our exercise and activity regime, and according to Professor Murray, the morning is the best time to get active.

By exercising in the morning, you can kickstart your day, and prepare your mind for what’s to come. If you’re not keen on braving the cold, the gym is the next best thing. Getting a short-term gym membership and making commitments to meet a friend at the gym means you’ll be more likely to follow through and burn some calories!

Knock those carbs (or sweets) out of your daily diet
“As the season begins to change, people can find it difficult to wake up in the mornings. They feel more lethargic or crave carbohydrate-rich, fatty foods,” says Professor Murray.

As we begin to lack vitamin D in winter, our serotonin levels drop and we start to crave carbohydrates. By reducing how many carbohydrate-rich foods you consume (such as bread, beer, pasta and starchy vegetables) and balancing this with daily exercise, you can help your mind and body get back in shape.

Bring the outdoors inside
Don’t want to face the cold temperatures but desperate for some sunlight? Try optimising your indoor space to bring as much light in as possible. By opening up those curtains, you’ll bring in warmth. And by opening up some windows, you can let fresh air surround you without feeling icy!

Don’t forget to stay hydrated
In summer, we tend to sweat more and drink more water to keep our body hydrated. In winter, we sweat less, move less and don’t often feel the need to drink water. Better Health Victoria suggests that women should drink eight cups of water per day, while men should drink ten. A good tip to keep water intake up during the icier months is to always keep a water bottle with you. This way, you can hydrate yourself on the go.

Be mindful, and go easy on yourself
With three consecutive months of cold weather, it can seem difficult to break our winter blues slump. Professor Murray suggests that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves and that it’s normal to feel less productive in winter: “be realistic and understand that your productivity may not be as high as it is in the warmer months. You need to accept that there is an annual cycle and that you may not get as much done during winter.”

Get talking
There is one positive thing about getting the winter blues: many people experience it, meaning you can always talk about it to your family, your friends and anyone that might be experiencing the same feelings as you. Speaking to someone about how you feel will always improve your state of mind.

“Although for most of us the mood and energy changes in winter can be addressed with these simple strategies, we should keep in mind that depression at any time of year can be difficult to shift and may require professional attention,” Professor Murray says.

If you’d like to speak to someone, Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14. If you’re looking for more information on how to improve and understand your mental health, visit Beyond Blue.

*This information should only be considered advisory, and not as professional advice. You should always contact your trusted GP for medical advice.

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