8 ways to combat the winter blues with exercise

8 ways to combat the winter blues with exercise

As the new year arrives, festive decorations vanish, and joyous celebrations fade away. It’s common to find oneself grappling with intermittent bouts of low spirits, anxiety, and even depression in the early days of January. Fortunately, this is a regular occurrence, with millions experiencing these emotional slumps, commonly referred to as the “January blues,” each year.

Typically extending for a few weeks until the infamous ‘Blue Monday,’ deemed the most melancholic day of the year, these January blues can be alleviated. Below, we’ve compiled practical tips and clever tricks to uplift your mood as January unfolds. Let’s dive in.

Embrace Outdoor Workouts

In the realm of fitness, a well-kept secret is that the most effective workout is the one you can maintain. For many, this involves diversifying between gym-based exercises and outdoor training. Scientifically supported, a study in the journal PLOS One suggests that engaging in steady-state outdoor cardio, such as trail running, contributes to greater happiness than indoor workouts like HIIT or resistance training. Moreover, research from Harvard University indicates that physical activity in natural surroundings extends life by up to 12%. The added bonus? A dose of mood-boosting vitamin D.

Revamp Your Diet

After a season filled with indulgences, January beckons for a more sensible approach. However, cutting back on sugary treats doesn’t mean resigning to a dull diet. Instead, embrace fresh, seasonal, and healthy ingredients. Research from the journal Social Indicators Research indicates that individuals consuming seven or more servings of produce daily report higher happiness levels and better mental health.

Link Exercise to Quality Sleep

Combat the January blues by combining a solid night’s sleep with a robust exercise routine. A study in Clinical Sports Medicine reveals that a late-afternoon workout raises body temperature, promoting easier sleep. Aim to complete weight training no later than three hours before bedtime for optimal results. Alternatively, set an early morning alarm to engage in a workout, triggering the release of the “joy, bliss, delight” hormone, anandamide, and mood-boosting dopamine.

Address Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

January’s limited daylight hours often contribute to the blues, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Even on cloudy days, exposure to natural light is beneficial. If sunlight isn’t readily available, consider light therapy. S.A.D. lamps, like Lumie’s Vitamin L S.A.D. Lamp, mimic sunlight, helping alleviate the effects of the blues by boosting serotonin, the feel-good hormone.

Embrace Cold Showers

While the thought of leaving a warm bed for an ice-cold shower may seem daunting, science supports this chilly habit. Cold water exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, your body’s response to stress, and releases noradrenaline, leaving you feeling invigorated upon stepping out. A cup of tea in the meantime may help ease the transition.

Connect with Others

Research from mental health charity Mind reveals that many individuals put on a brave face when feeling low or anxious. If you or a friend are experiencing persistent low moods, it’s crucial to reach out. Active social connections benefit both mental and physical health. Studies on heart attack patients show a 50% higher survival rate for those with stronger social connections. Interacting with friends also triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Indulge in Chocolate Moderately

Abstaining from chocolate has no place in a balanced lifestyle. Reward yourself for your hard workouts with a slice of dark chocolate. The flavonoids in dark chocolate can reduce stress-causing hormones, offering benefits that go beyond mere indulgence.

Limit Social Media Exposure

The fear of missing out (FOMO) often exacerbated by endless social media scrolling can negatively impact mental health. Adopting the “joy of missing out” (JOMO) mindset, as suggested by psychologist Svend Brinkmann, involves taking breaks from social media. A study from San Diego State University links FOMO to depressive symptoms, making it beneficial to disconnect. Even Google CEO Sundar Pichai advocates for JOMO. Additionally, negative updates on social media are associated with spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, providing another reason to log off.