Blue Monday – Beat the Winter Blues

The third Monday of January has been labelled Blue Monday – the excitement of the holiday season has faded, it is extremely cold outside, the stress of trying to implement your New Year’s resolutions has set in, and your holiday credit card statements have finally made an appearance – a perfect storm of factors marking Monday, January 16th as one the most depressing days of the year.

While Blue Monday has proven to be a myth, the ‘winter blues’ are all too real. Research in Ontario suggests that 15 percent of the general population has experienced the winter blues, which can include changes in appetite and lethargy as the days grow shorter.

The winter blues differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects about two percent of the population and is a serious form of depression.

It is so important for your mental health to stay active and social in the wintertime. As the days are shorter and the air is colder people tend to be less energetic and motivated. It is very easy to hibernate inside and miss out on countless opportunities for fun and social interactions with friends and family.

Here are 6 ways that we suggest to help combat the blues this winter:

  • Maximize exposure to sunlight.
    • Spend more time outdoors during the day and arrange indoor environments to receive maximum sunlight. Trim tree branches that block light, for example, and keep curtains open during the day. Move furniture to sit near a window.
  • Social Interaction
    • Spending time with friends and family is a great way to lighten your mood and keep up with the social interactions you would normally have in the warmer months. There are tons of ways to build and maintain your social networks throughout the winter, whether it is a skating trip with friends or a games night at home with family. Enjoy the offerings of the winter season!
  • Exercise
    • Physical activity is one of the best ways to increase endorphins and serotonin, generating a happier and healthier mood. However, cold weather is not always appealing for many people to go out and get some physical activity in. Still, there are tons of ways to get exercise in the winter season such as: joining a gym class, doing some exercises at home, joining a recreational sports league or making a habit of taking a daily noon-hour walk.
  • Personal Hobbies
    • Personal hobbies are a great way to do something for you! If you cannot enjoy the hobby you would normally do in warmer weather, utilize the time you have for something that you can do and enjoy during the winter season. There are countless options, whether it is starting a new book, a craft, a winter sport or an activity at a local community centre.
  • Explore Nature
    • Canada is such a beautiful country, and everyone should enjoy what it has to offer through all seasons. Getting outside is one of the best things you can do to lighten your mood and feel more like yourself. Exposure to nature has a multitude of mental health benefits such as: reducing stress, anxiety and depression and it increases social engagement and personal well-being. So, it is time to get outside this winter and make a snowman, go skiing, tobogganing or throw some snowballs and enjoy nature this season.
  • Eat Well
    • Always remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle even if you aren’t as physically active as in warmer weather. Maintaining a healthy diet will aid in keeping you feeling physically and mentally healthy. For example, vitamin D is great for bone and teeth health, it improves brain function through increased serotonin and endorphin levels and will also keep your immune system strong to combat winter colds.