Advertising
Advertising

Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Things You Can Do Instead of Staying In the Winter Blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as the “winter blues” (or “winter blahs”) affects millions of people every year. If you’ve ever felt sluggish and depressed during the colder, darker months, you may have experienced this type of short-term depression yourself. Although this is characterized as a disorder, it may just be our minds and bodies encouraging us to take things a bit slower and hibernate a bit more until the warmer days of spring return.

As few of us can afford to take a few months off work so we can crawl under blankets and eat pie, we can take a few steps to alleviate these cold weather blues so they don’t interfere with our daily lives quite as much.

Advertising

Symptoms of the winter blues can include the following:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • General lethargy and loss of energy
  • The feeling of having heavy limbs that are troublesome to move around
  • Social withdrawal; feeling like you just want to be left alone
  • Fatigue and oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in socializing or other activities
  • Food cravings, especially for carbohydrates and fatty foods
  • Weight gain (likely from a combination of appetite changes and lack of exercise)
  • Difficulty concentrating

Does any of this sound familiar? Sure, we can all likely relate to a couple of those issues at some point in the winter, but if you find yourself checking off most of those symptom points, you might wish to take some steps to alleviate them. SAD usually clears up on its own as soon as the weather warms up again and we spend a bit more time in the sunshine, but the following tips and tricks can help to alleviate these symptoms a great deal.

Advertising

Light Therapy

Our energy levels are controlled by the hormones melatonin and serotonin. When we wake to daylight, serotonin kicks in to bring us focus and clarity. Melatonin is produced at night to help us wind down for restful sleep, but over the dark winter months (when we don’t get much exposure to sunlight), our bodies produce more melatonin than usual. This can make us sleepy, lethargic, and depressed, which can be difficult for those of us tending to small children or having to put together spectacular presentations at work. 

If you get yourself a small, medically-approved light box and plop it on your desk, you’ll receive similar effects to basking in summer sunshine while you work. That direct light beaming into your retinas can lift your spirits immensely and help to boost your energy levels. Aim for somewhere between 20 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on how miserable you feel. On days when you’re not working, just perch the light box on the table while you eat, read, or do homework.

Advertising

Exercise

Working out won’t just help you fight off winter weight gain‒it’ll lift your mood as well. Those natural endorphins that are released during a good workout will keep you smiling for a while, and the restful sleep you’ll get after pushing yourself a little can help too. If you manage to exercise outside, whether that’s cross-country skiing or even just taking a lot of walks outdoors, you’ll also get some great exposure to sunshine and fresh air.

Cut Back on Caffeine, Sugar, and Alcohol

Although a hot cup of coffee, chocolatey brownie, or glass of wine will make us smile for a little while, the inevitable crash will make us feel even worse later. Cut back on coffee and black tea, and stay hydrated with fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water instead. If you’re craving sugar, try chewing on some dried figs, or make yourself some power balls with dates, honey (or agave), and chopped nuts.

Advertising

Vitamins and Supplements

Some people find that supplements such as Vitamin D and Vitamin C help them to battle the winter blues, while others turn to St. John’s Wort tincture to raise their spirits. Consult your healthcare provided before taking any supplements, just in case there are contraindications with medications you’re already on, or side-effects that may interfere with any medical issues you may have.

If you find that you’re feeling really depressed, are turning to alcohol and/or drugs to lift your spirits, or if you’ve had any thoughts about suicide, please contact your doctor immediately. While the aforementioned supplements and such can work wonders to help mild SAD, more intense symptoms may require stronger measures.

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of 20 Online Resources for Free E-Books 10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills 10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World

Trending in Health

1 10 Best Kombucha Brands To Improve Gut Health 2 12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind 3 14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet 4 10 Simple Ways To Live a Longer and Happier Life 5 How to Deal With Stress the Healthy Way

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 13, 2020

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

As a mediation teacher, I am constantly confronted with these two questions regarding the benefits of meditation:

1. Why can’t I enjoy the benefits of meditation continuously?

I ask back: Is it maybe because you see mediation as a technique, performance, or some exclusive activity? The answer is: yes!

Or, because your mind is constantly evolving on the past negative attachments and traditional habits? After careful thinking they answer: yes, probably!

Although meditation is very simple and challenging at the same time, in the above mentioned case, it’s not easy to benefit from meditation, especially when approached with the idea that it has to be learned, studied, or applied. Meditation is to be seen as a natural, mental cleansing process that happens on a basis of awareness on a moment-to-moment experience. When that takes place, the benefits of meditation are continuous.

2. What is the purpose of meditation?

The purpose of meditation is to accomplish a level of consciousness for mastering the mind and uniting with the finest, deepest, and subtlest part of yourself as a being.

It is a conscious process of observation of the mind—helping the meditator to understand the structure of its mind and the quality of its content. During this process, countless benefits of a physical, mental, and spiritual/philosophical nature arise for the meditator.

Advertising

Meditation as a Fixer and Benefactor

In this article we’ll have a look at the primary and the ultimate benefits of mediation, which improve your body and mind at the same time. For the sake of clarity, readability, and tangible experience, I have separated the benefits into three groups.

You can change just about anything you don’t like about yourself (psychologically, as well as physically) through meditation. However, this is only possible with a specific approach, when your brain allows the benefits of meditation to do their work.

This means not to interrupt the benefit with other thoughts, but to let their effect implement itself in your body and mind. This approach is crucial.

The following exercises will make you feel the benefits of meditation instantly, but the continuity of the benefits of meditation on your body and mind depend on the discipline of your brain, how you manage external stimuli and your thoughts.

Less Physical, More Psychological

Even though the practice of meditation is more psychological and less physical, the first benefit we’re going to experience is both physical as well as mental.

This benefit happens literally immediately, right at the moment of meditation. It is the essence of mediation basically.

The First Benefit of Meditation

The first benefit of meditation is twofold:

  1. Improving inward attention (sharpening the mind)
  2. Relaxation of the body

Let’s do it right now. This benefit consists of only one step, and it is very simple to perform. It goes like this:

Advertising

Sit still and pay attention to your exhalation.

That’s it! Technically, the whole journey into the world of mediation begins here and nowhere else. And right here, you benefit from this step in the following way:

When you pay attention to the flow of your exhalation (gentle, deep, effortless exhalation), your body begins with the process of relaxation instantly (your heart rate slows down, your nervous system calms, and tension in your muscles is relieved).

When the nervous system calms, your mind calms down, and, more specifically, less thoughts are produced by your mind. How, exactly? By applying one of the most valuable mental skills—attention—the mind follows the breathing and has no space and time to generate any other thoughts. Only when the attention goes off the breath, other thoughts are constructed, and the mind is accelerating with thought production again.

Keeping the First Benefit Effective and Ongoing

Here you apply the approach of not letting the relaxation and attention process get interrupted; rather let the effects of these benefits implant in your body and mind as deeply as possible.

This is to say, the instant relaxation and inward attention happen at the same time when you follow the flow of your breath. Repeating this process—creating a constant rhythm out of the breathing and the attention—you create a process of meditation.

Keep your attention on the flow of your breath and see how the calmness of body and mind begin to rule your present moment. The longer you stay connected to your breathing, the stronger you’ll feel the benefit. Start with 3-5 minutes at a time without doing anything else, and increase to 10-20 minutes and onwards.

Can you think of a better, simpler and quicker exercise that can relax the body and improve attention in this way, at this speed?

Advertising

This benefit takes you to the second one.

The Second Benefit of Meditation

While still working with the first benefit of mediation, you slowly start to see the second benefit of mediation, which is fourfold. I call it the major value of mediation:

  1. Energy (physical and mental strength)
  2. Observance
  3. Peacefulness (stillness, and space of mind for deeper observation)
  4. Patience

Peacefulness is the source of a blissful life. The energy is the fuel to express that blissfulness. Whatever we want to accomplish in life we need: 1) Physical and mental strength, 2) Observance of that energy, 3) Peacefulness—the calmness and stillness that creates space for freedom of being and creative thinking, and 4) Patience for the process of accomplishment.

You can only get creative in thinking and boosted with physical and mental energy when you get in touch with the deepest levels of yourself—when you harmonize your mental and physiological activities. How do you do that? Let’s try it right now:

This step involves the observation of the two separate movements of your breath. After paying attention on your exhalation, you have prepared your body and mind to really see and feel what true peacefulness and true energy means.

1. Energy

Keep your attention on your inhalation (inhaling gently, deeply and lightly) and feel the new energy (new oxygen) flowing in your body. The inhalation is the symbol for aliveness and vitality. It is the the primary act that connects the baby’s body with the outside world after coming out of the womb[1]. Each inhalation is a new opportunity for your body to revive, regenerate, and renew itself.

2. Observance

The observance comes during the process of meditation, enabling you to see the physiological benefits of introducing new energy to your body. Use that benefit by utilizing its effects, and create deeper observation into yourself. With every single inhalation, this observation will enable you to generate even more energy, mentally and physically.

3. Peacefulness

Keep your attention on your exhalation, and feel how, out of the relaxation, peacefulness is spreading throughout your whole body. The exhalation is the symbol for relaxation and peacefulness. Only through meditation can you realize what absolute peacefulness means.

Advertising

4. Patience

The meditation delivers the previous benefits to you immediately and opens up the possibility for many other benefits and great virtues. A specific one to mention, which is essential for reaching the ultimate benefits of meditation, is patience. If you have experienced the aforementioned benefits, it means that you have invested a certain amount of patience into mastering yourself and your mind.

The Ultimate Benefits of Meditation

Patience is a key quality when it comes to the ultimate benefits of meditation.

Since the mind is the tool that reveals everything, mediation is the method for the proper utility of the tool.

The above mentioned benefits of mediation lead to the ultimate benefits of mediation—qualities that depict what makes a human being human. As you dwell in a meditative state of being, the following benefits begin to emanate:

  • Diligence: the persistence for righteous effort to reach an intrinsic value; inner strength.
  • Temperance: to express self-control and show excellence in managing the physio-biological and mental necessities
  • Courage: using righteous effort and braveness to look into the weaknesses of yourself and at the hardship of your life, endure it and patiently overcome the obstacles
  • Loving kindness and Compassion – a capacity to care, understand, and tolerate other people’s state of being, wishing them freedom from suffering.
  • Wisdom: the moment when you feel that mediation gives you the feeling and the knowledge that what you do relating to life and practical affairs is just.
  • Equanimity: that puts you in a state of composure, and you experience an ongoing blissful state of being.

These are the 6 ultimate benefits of meditation that put your body and mind in a state of health and balance.

Final Thoughts

Mediation exists to put order in your mind and awaken the best of you, to reconnect you to your goodness and your inborn intelligent capabilities.

Meditation is the window to your true Self. It gives you a panoramic view of your heart’s greatness. It shows you the true meaning of love, freeing you from the dungeons of ignorance and despair. The power of meditation dismantles the evil that’s trying to cloud the beauty of your heart.

Your heart, body, and soul are the bridge over which the challenges of life frequently carry their heavy load. Meditation is the support of that bridge. Make use of that support.

More on Meditation

Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medline Plus: Changes in the newborn at birth

Read Next