4 Mood-Boosting Tips To Help You Fight The Winter Blahs

The holidays are long behind us and dreary January is affecting our mood ⁠— and our mood is bleak.

The lack of sunlight, and thus the decrease of vitamin D, the nutrient that helps maintain our health and prevent disease, throughout the winter can affect our mental and physical health. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association notes 15 per cent of the general population has experienced the winter blues, “which can include changes in appetite, lethargy, and low mood.” 

“The reduced level of sunlight during the cold winter months can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock), which can lead to a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) and lead to feelings of depression,” Toronto-based certified holistic nutritionist Carley Nadine tells HuffPost Canada.

But it’s important to remember that the winter blues is a separate syndrome from seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year that affects about two per cent of the population.

So with all of these challenges to overcome, is there a way to beat the winter blahs and boost our mood? You betcha — here are four simple tips to put into practice this season.

WATCH: Must-do activities to add to your winter bucket list. Story continues below.

Go outside even if you don’t feel like it

We get it — the idea of spending the next few months outdoors shivering in the cold sounds terrible, but trust us, some thermal undies (we like the Heat Tech collection from Uniqlo) and thick socks can help block the wind and even make winter *gasp* enjoyable! 

Once you’re dressed with the below-zero temperatures in mind, there are plenty of seasonal activities to enjoy.  Outdoor skating rinks and trails (Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, the under-the-Gardiner trail at the Bentway in Toronto, Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, and Robson Square in Vancouver are some local faves), tobogganing, and snowshoeing are all fun ways to experience winter.

“Being exposed to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally but it also can also contribute to physical wellbeing, reducing heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of the stress hormone cortisol,” Nadine says.

Exercise is a vital way to keep the winter blues at bay, as it helps reduce stress, boosts your energy, and increases your mental and physical health.

Enjoy the cold, don’t resist it

Just as we flock to parks and beaches in the summer to bask in the sun, why not celebrate the cosy season with simple activities targeted to enjoy the weather rather than resist it? 

When planning your weekend, arrange the outdoor errands earlier in the day while it’s light out, and then gather family or friends for some cozy crafts, pizza making, dinner, or a movie night where you can settle into the sensation of being warm while the snow falls outside. 

Spending downtime with loved ones can inspire feelings of gratitude, and can help lessen the impact the grey season has on our mental health.

Who doesn’t love easy tips to help lift your mood? Check out simple, everyday habits you can do below. Story continues below slideshow.

The Tip: Walking A Dog Can Help You Feel Less Lonely And Isolated

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need some fresh air; like you want some exercise; like you want to discover a new part of your ’hood; like you’re in the mood for some sweet doggy affection. Read more here.

The Tip: Intention Setting Can Help You Understand Yourself On A Deeper Level

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to inspire yourself, self-reflect, figure out your values, hold yourself accountable. Read more here.

The Tip: 5 Simple Ways To Reduce Waste In And Out Of The Home

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to prevent the planet from becoming a total wasteland. Read more here.

The Tip: Doing 1 Yoga Pose A Day Can Help Manage Your Stress

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need to stretch your body. Read more here.

The Tip: Baking Your Own Bread Has Therapeutic Benefits

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to try something new; when you want to impress your family during holiday get-togethers; when you want to smell something mouth-wateringly delicious. Read more here.

The Tip: Smelling A Book Can Bring Back Cherished Childhood Memories

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to remember your days spent at the library when you were a kid. Read more here.

The Tip: Dancing Isn't Just For Fun — It Can Improve Your Psychological Wellbeing

For whenever you’re feeling: Excited; like you need to move your body; like you need a break from work. Read more here.

The Tip: Why Your Phone Shouldn't Be A Part Of Your Morning Routine

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need to cut down on your screen time. Read more here.

The Tip: Putting Up Christmas Decorations Outside Can Make You More 'Social'

For whenever you’re feeling: In the Christmas spirit! Read more here.

The Tip: Closing Your Browser Tabs Will Make You A Lot More Focused

For whenever you’re feeling: Overwhelmed by the amount of tabs you have open. Read more here.

The Tip: Fabric Bags Are A Good Way To Go Green During The Holidays

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to stop creating more waste; like you want to make a unique, homemade gift. Read more here.

The Tip: This Is Why You Shouldn't Check Your Phone While Watching A Movie

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you just want to enjoy a whole movie without being distracted by your New York Times notifications about the impeachment proceedings. Read more here.

The Tip: Baking Cookies Can Make You Less Stressed During The Holidays

For whenever you’re feeling: Hungry; in need of a last-minute gift for a loved one. Read more here.

The Tip: Desk Plants Can Decrease Stress

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need to brighten up your workspace. Read more here.

The Tip: Writing Just One Holiday Card Can Make You Feel Good

For whenever you're feeling: Full of joy and love; in the festive spirit. Read more here.

The Tip: Switching Up Your Workplace Can Make You More Productive

For whenever you're feeling: Like you need a change of scenery; like you want less distractions from colleagues; like you want to be more productive. Read more here.

The Tip: Make The Power Pose Part Of Your Daily Routine

For whenever you’re feeling: Nervous, small, insignificant. Read more here.

The Tip: Enjoy That Dessert

France, Paris, young woman eating two croissants in front of Eiffel Tower

The Tip: Pelvic Floor Exercises Can Help You Stop Peeing When You Laugh

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you pee (or poo) when you laugh/sneeze/cough/exercise/have sex; when you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction. Read more here.

The Tip: Spraying A Scent In Your Bedroom Can Lift Your Mood

For whenever you’re feeling: Like your mood needs a little lift. Read more here.

The Tip: Taking A Bath Is An Easy Mood Booster

For whenever you’re feeling: Stressed out, physically exhausted, mentally tapped out. Read more here.

The Tip: How ASMR Can Help You Relax And Fall Asleep

For whenever you’re feeling: Really tired but you can’t sleep; stressed and anxious. Read more here.

The Tip: Writing A Letter To A Loved One Has Healing Benefits

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you desperately miss your best friend who lives in another city. Read more here.

The Tip: A Gratitude Jar Can Help You See The Positives In Your Life

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you don’t have anything good going on in your life. Read more here.

The Tip: Hanging Up Art In Your Home Can Make You Happier

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need a change of scenery. Read more here

The Tip: Learning How To Sew Can Be Good For Your Well-Being

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you need some “me” time; a break from your day job; an actual hobby that isn’t Fortnite; a mental health boost. Read more here

The Tip: Fresh Air From The Big Outdoors Has Lasting Health Benefits

For whenever you’re feeling: Sluggish, tired, stressed. Read more here.

The Tip: Rearranging Furniture Can Give You A Sense Of Relief

For whenever you’re feeling: Bored of your space; like you need to be revitalized; like the cold, grey weather is affecting your mood. Read more here.

The Tip: Buy Yourself Flowers That Bloom In Winter

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to be treated with something nice but don’t want to or can’t afford to spend a lot of money; like your home needs a refresh. Read more here.

Warm up yogi style

Sure, cranking up the heat is one way to stay warm, but if you want to stay active too, try a hot yoga class (we love the classes at Pure Yoga in Toronto and Ottawa), in a room that’s heated to 32 C.

Practising yoga in a heated room “can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a more challenging workout than doing the same poses in a lower temperature,” according to Healthline. A 2014 study found that just one hot yoga class can get your heart pumping at the same rate as a brisk walk.

If you have any concerns about doing hot yoga, check in with your doctor before you take a class.

Spice up your brew

Whether you’re a java junkie, a cider fan, or a kid-at-heart lover of hot chocolate, hot drinks are wonderful at warming you up from the inside out. 

Sofia da Silva, a holistic nutritionist and founder of Raiz, a company that makes plant-based coffee alternative drinks, suggests adding warming spices to your winter bevvy, even if it’s a cold smoothie.

Spices like ginger and turmeric help “boost mood, increase circulation, and ... the aromas are relaxing and comforting,” da Silva told HuffPost Canada.

Other herbs and spices that can warm you up are cinnamon (delicious when sprinkled on top of hot chocolate and apple cider), which can boost your concentration, memory, and attention, and rosemary (delicious in soups, stews, and chilis), which can help calm the nerves.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.