How to Beat the Winter Blues
By Kenneth Kronlund, MD, FACP
Medical Director, Quality and Patient Safety
The winter months often bring a sense of melancholy to many people, especially seniors. Reduced sunshine, less social interaction, and fewer activities can contribute to the “winter blues.”
If you or someone you love is feeling a little down this winter, it may be helpful to intentionally make the extra effort to spend additional time with others. Often simple activities that can be done with friends and family members, such as arranging a game night, listening to music, cooking, or looking through photo albums can work wonders at improving emotional well-being. Below are some more tips on beating the winter blues:
More Light Exposure
Getting some natural sunlight is also is good idea during the wintertime. Natural light is known to have a positive impact on people’s mood (and also helps your body produce vitamin D). If it’s too cold to go outside, make sure the light levels in your home are sufficient. You may want to consider adding extra lights where needed. Remember, if it’s dark and dreary outside, make sure it’s bright and cheery on the inside!
Get Some Exercise
Exercise and other physical activities are a natural mood booster. Joining a gym or exercising at home works equally well. There are many good exercise classes available online for all different age groups. Even taking a simple daily walk can do a lot for someone’s mental health. Try to get at least 30 minutes a day of exercise and stay as active as possible – it’s healthy for your brain and body.
Consume Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Eating the right foods can play a role in warding off the winter blues. Various studies have indicated that a vitamin D deficiency can adversely affect a person’s mental health. Many people become deficient in vitamin D in the winter months due to lack of sun exposure. So choose a diet rich in vitamin D, including foods such as eggs, cold-water fish like salmon, mushrooms, milk, oatmeal and fortified cereal. You can also ask your medical provider if taking vitamin D supplements is right for you.
Stay in Touch
Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch. So be sure to make an effort to stay connected with loved ones with through phone calls or video visits. Interpersonal interaction can really make a difference in fighting off loneliness. If you are taking care of a loved one, try to schedule calls with their friends and family members. Strong social connections can help improve people’s moods and ward off isolation and depression.
Catch a Favorite Film
Watching an old movie that you enjoyed previously can often make you feel better. Now it’s easier than ever, as streaming services bring old favorites and new movies right into your living room. If a loved one is unfamiliar with signing up with a streaming service, offer to help them get started. It could make a huge difference in helping them lift out of the blues.
Note that some people experience more serious mood changes during the year that are more concerning than the winter blues. These mood changes include feeling depressed during most of the day and losing interest in activities that were formerly enjoyed, among others. These changes need to be taken seriously because they could signal seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression. If you believe you or a loved one are suffering from SAD, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider about getting treatment. You can learn more about the symptoms of SAD here.
About Kenneth Kronlund, MD
A physician for over two decades, Dr. Kenneth Kronlund has spent his entire career at Reliant Medical Group. Starting first in Urgent Care, he then became a practicing internist. Asked why he decided to make internal medicine his career, Dr Kronlund explains, “I chose to be an internist because I enjoy treating the full spectrum of medical issues that affect people as opposed to just concentrating in one area. But I think the biggest...View profile View posts by this doctor