The third Monday in January, which falls on the 20th this year, is commonly referred to as the most depressing day of the year—earning the name Blue Monday. But what is it that makes this day so blue? With these healthy habits, you’ll sail through the upcoming months, avoid winter depression, and make it through to spring.
The term “Blue Monday” was coined by Cliff Arnall, a professor at Cardiff University. Along with the name, he also created a formula for the concept, where factors like bad weather, motivation, broken New Year’s resolutions, and the fact that you’ve spent too much money on Christmas all play a role.
A SAD feeling in winter
This formula may be a bit of nonsense, but there is a kernel of truth to it. It is a fact that a lot of people suffer from feelings of depression during the winter months, and can even experience SAD, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Perhaps you recognise a few symptoms: feeling less motivated during the winter, finding yourself sleeping more or sleeping less, a change in eating habits, less energy, or simply not being in the mood to do anything.
The causes of this kind of winter depression or negative feelings are actually quite obvious. With the shorter days, you see less light, and this disrupts your biological clock. A lack of light can also influence your serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter that influences your mood and your melatonin level, which affects your sleep and your mood.
8 healthy winter routines to prevent winter depression
Luckily, there are enough things to do that will help you get through the winter happy and healthy.
1. Try to get enough light
Because light has such a huge impact on your mood, it’s important that you take advantage of the hours of light that do exist during winter. Take a morning walk or go outside during your lunch break. If this doesn’t do the trick, light therapy can help stimulate your serotonin and melatonin levels. According to University of Oregon researcher Alfred Lewy, the best time to do light therapy is in the morning.
2. Stay moving
Movement has a big impact on your mood. It can be tempting to spend your winter vegged out on the couch but try to get moving at least once a day. You’ll notice that this makes you feel better. It really doesn’t need to be an intense HIIT training, either—you can just go for a walk or do some yoga and this will work wonders.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a role in your energy levels, but this is produced through sunlight and during winter, that’s difficult to come by. It won’t hurt to take some extra vitamin D pills during the colder months. Eating fish that’s extra fatty, like salmon or herring, can also help, because there is more vitamin D3 in them, as well as in eggs.
4. Develop a good sleep rhythm
Do you know that crabby feeling you get when you’ve not slept enough? In order to feel good, it’s very important that you get enough sleep, and seven hours per night is the minimum. Develop a rhythm where you go to bed around the same time every night—also in the weekends—and you’ll see that you sleep a lot better.
Mindfulness can help you prevent winter depression, but it can also help you deal with it better. Accept that you’ll feel less than great or not exactly like yourself in the coming months. Do everything that you can do with more attention and do it at a slower pace, because that’s also appropriate during winter.
6. Adjust your eating
Healthy and diverse food can also help combat feelings of melancholy in the winter. Start your day with water and lemon for vitamin C, sprinkle some nuts and seeds over your salad for vitamin E, choose leafy greens for vitamin B12 and fatty fish not only for vitamin D3, but also for the fish oil. Adding green tea and turmeric to your diet is also a good idea.
7. Embrace the winter
You can complain about the cold and the short, darker days, but you can also take advantage of it by spending more time at home with family and friends. In Scandinavia, this concept is known as hygge. If you’re not a natural homebody and are more the adventurous type, book a ticket to somewhere sunny.
8. Be thankful
Dr. Amy Harrison, professor at Regents University in London, does a lot of research in positive psychology. She recommends writing down what you’re thankful for every day. In this way, you can train yourself to focus on the positive things in your life.