Whether you refer to it as the back to work blues, the January blues or the winter blues, people often share feeling a little down after the holidays. And while Blue Monday is a myth, research confirms that Canadians are prone to a downward shift in mood in the winter months.
A research study in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders found that higher levels of depressive symptoms were reported in winter months compared to summer months. Youth are especially at risk of seasonal effects on mood, with young people reporting more depressive symptoms in the winter months such as lack of interest in regular activities, trouble concentrating, feeling slow or fidgety, as well as sleep and appetite difficulties.
To help, CMHA is offering these six tips to help beat the winter blues:
- Spend time in nature. Bundle up and get outside. Compared to an urban setting, walking in nature has been shown to reduce anger, improve positive affect, and lower blood pressure.
- Maximize exposure to sunlight. Arrange indoor environments to receive maximum sunlight. Keep curtains open during the day and move furniture to sit near a window.
- Exercise. Physical activity relieves stress, builds energy and increases mental well-being. Make a habit of taking a daily walk. The activity and increased exposure to natural light can raise spirits.
- Eat a healthy diet. Seasonal variations in mood can make you crave sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and white bread. Opt for complex carbohydrates as a better choice. Foods such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas can boost your feel-good serotonin levels without the subsequent sugar crash.
- Practice daily relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing, yoga or meditation to help manage stress, reduce negative emotions such as anger and fear, and boost feelings of joy and well-being.
- Reach out for help. 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. If you are unsure of whether you are experiencing SAD or the winter blues, ask your doctor.
For additional support, CMHA Ontario manages BounceBack®, free skill-building program designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered over the phone with a coach and through online videos, BounceBack offers tools that will support Ontarians on their path to mental wellness. For more information, visit BounceBackOntario.ca.