Shades of Grey – 5 Easy Ways to Beat a Low Mood During the Dark of Winter By David Scammell

Although I have been enjoying this warmer winter with very little in the way of snow, the price we often pay in Toronto for warmer temperatures is seemingly endless days of various shades of grey. Earlier this week I found myself sitting in front of my bedroom window during a rare sunny moment, basking in the bright sunshine and soaking up those glorious rays. Clearly I am feeling sunshine deprived.

During this time of year, many of my clients report feeling down, with a lack of motivation to do much of anything. There can be many reasons for experiencing the winter blues, but for many of us, shorter days and a lack of bright sunshine definitely have a negative impact on our mood. Even if we don’t suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) a type of seasonal depression, lower light levels can still leave us feeling sluggish and blah.

A little self-care can go a long way to help us feel a little bit brighter. The following are some blues busting suggestions to help you make it through until spring:

Exercise: Besides improved self-esteem, the body releases chemicals called endorphins during exercise which can cause a euphoric feeling accompanied by a brighter outlook on life.

Get outside: Unless we regularly engage in winter sports, many of us avoid the outdoors during the winter months. Just getting outside for a walk and breathing fresh air, especially somewhere close to nature can lift our spirits.

Don’t Isolate: Often when we are feeling down, we might find it hard to reach out to friends as we may not feel very social. That’s just the time when we need them most. Make a date with friends or join a yoga or other type of class for the social interaction. Being with others can bring us out of ourselves and shift our focus.

Watch your diet: Sometimes when feeling down we might self- medicate with food or alcohol to help us feel better. Often the snacks we gravitate toward are heavy on salt, fat or sugar, and although they may give us short-term relief, we can end up feeling worse as the body crashes afterward. Alcohol is never a good solution as it has a depressant effect on the brain, perhaps numbing our feelings for a time, but contributing to the problem in the long run.

Light Therapy: There are many products on the market now which produce full spectrum light creating a positive effect on our mood and helping to regulate sleep patterns.

One of my favourite winter blues busters is making a trip to Allen Gardens, a public (and free) greenhouse in downtown Toronto. As soon as you walk in your senses are assaulted by the humid air and rich smells of earth and lush greenery. There are usually lots of flowering plants including orchids on display and for a few moments I am transported to a place filled with vibrant life and colour.

Hang in there. It will be April before we know it.

DSC4133_David_Cropped-540x280_WEBDavid Scammell is a Registered Psychotherapist at Helix Healthcare Group.
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