When Old Man Winter comes knocking, he can also bring with him a host of really nasty side effects if he sticks around too long. Irritability, depression, lethargy and restlessness are all hallmarks of cabin fever. You might long to chase the chill with a cozy spot on the couch and binge watch your favorite show with a hot toddy, but to beat the winter blues, you have to get active and.
Change Your Scenery
A change in scenery equals a change in mood. Get a fresh perspective by heading out into nature, if possible, for a walk or hike. "It is well established that exposure to nature leads to positive mental health outcomes..." reports Dr. Jules Pretty, Dr. Jo Barton, Ph.D., and Dr. Murray Griffin of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, UK. If you're homebound, making simple changes to your decor such as rearranging a room or adding flowers can boost morale. For kids, create a reading nook with a few new books, set up an art corner with an easel and supplies, or simply move toys to a different room.
Gather Your Posse
Hibernating alone only makes cabin fever worse. It may be counterintuitive, but surrounding yourself with your buddies can have a positive impact on mood and energy. Make a concerted effort to connect with friends regularly -- in person -- during the winter. Your sanity will thank you. Consider booking weekly play dates with your children's friends. Host game nights with other families and plan a potluck dinner. Or get involved in a local book club.
Vigorous exercise -- specifically outside, with friends -- is key to shaking cabin fever crankiness, according to a 2005 University of Essex study in the Department of Biological Sciences that looked at the combined effects of exercise, nature and social connections to promote mental well-being. Host a sledding party with friends or sign up for a winter snowshoe or Nordic ski race. If being outdoors isn't an option, consider joining a local recreation center or sign up for a new exercise class with a group of friends.
Exposure to natural sunlight, particularly in the morning, can be an effective measure against SAD -- seasonal affective disorder -- also known as the winter blues. Ideally, it's best to soak up the morning rays while you're outside, so consider making a regular habit of an after-breakfast walk. You can still get the benefit of natural sunlight when you're indoors, but that requires the help of a light box or special light bulbs and lamps. Phototherapy or bright light therapy uses a special box or bulbs that emit light that mimics natural sunlight. Working or reading near the light each day for a certain amount of time can affect brain chemicals known to ease SAD symptoms.
- Jules Pretty: Perspectives in Public Health: Exercise-, Nature- and Socially Interactive-Based Initiatives Improve Mood and Self-esteem in the Clinical Population
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Environmental Health: Perspectives: Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
- Mayo Clinic: Tests and Procedures: Light Therapy
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