Mind

How to beat and prevent the winter blues

It’s getting cold outside and the leafs are dropping from the trees like our squats in the gym ;). Most people decide to stay in, but us Fit Girls are dealing with an extra challenge to continue to rock our workouts. Unfortunately having a winter sleep doesn’t allow to grow abs and bootylicious butts 🙂 But the urge of staying home has everything to do with us dealing with the “winter blues” and in extreme cases even a winter depression. Read more about how we can beat the winter blues and keep rocking through these cold and dark days.

What controls the winter depression?
Winter depression – also know as “seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” is still a mystery to scientists who study it. It’s a combination of factors that make people have the winter blues, like brain chemicals, ions in the air and genetics.

Sunlight can affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones, however it’s not clear what this effect is. One theory that scientists have, is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep.

The winter blues usually starts to kick in at the beginning of autumn, as the days starts getting shorter. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you feel more tired than usual or you’re not your cheerful self. The cause could be that you don’t get enough sunlight, and therefore your hypothalamus is not stimulated.

Symptoms of the winter depression
In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly. This could affect how we feel during the shorter days of the winter season. Some symptoms are feeling tired, low mood, stressed, less active than normal, sleep more and feel unhappy 🙁 Even a whole bar of chocolate can’t shake away this feeling.

With the sunset starting early every day during the winter we don’t get as much sunlight as during others seasons. The lack of light affects the following processes:
– the production of the hormone melatonin
– the production / regulation of the hormone / neurotransmitter serotonin (scientists are still divided about serotonin, most believe it’s a neurotransmitter, although some consider the chemical to be a hormone, well either way it affects our mood so we call it the feel-good hormone 😉 and we need loads of it)
– our body’s circadian rhythm (this is our internal clock, which regulates the biological processes during a 24-hour period)

Why we need melatonin and serotonin
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to control your sleep and wake cycles. Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This is one of the reasons we mostly feel tired during the winter months and have trouble getting out of bed, or feel like we ran a marathon at four in the afternoon and want to sleep.

Serotonin, our feel-good hormone / neurotransmitter is a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Did you know we have approximately 40 million brain cells and most are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. WOW, that’s a nice fact to know! 😉 This includes brain cells related to our mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some of our social behaviour. The amount of this feel-good hormone in our system is different for everyone of us. And for those who don’t have enough of this feel-good hormone the winter blues could turn into a winter depression. Researchers also don’t know whether the dip in serotonin level causes the depression, or the depression causes serotonin levels to drop.

They do know there are interactions between the serotonin system and the circadian rhythm, which during the winter season is also disturbed by the increased melatonin production. This is why most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way the body responds to daylight.

How to beat and prevent the winter blues 
Luckily there are ways to trick our sexy hypothalamus so it can work properly and make sure our mood and sleeping urge stays in balance. The following tips will help you beat this winter blues’ ass;

See the light
If you feel low during the winter months, get outside as often as you can, especially on bright days. Even sitting by a window can also help. So schedule a break from your daily activities, and take a walk, 4 x 15min. is enough. Perhaps even look if it’s possible to move your desk near a window, trust me it will help you through the day and not falling a sleep behind your computer and drool all over your desk 🙂 ….haha… 😀

Also a bedside light, which is connected to an alarm clock and slowly wake you up from your dreams. This light simulate an sunrise so you can wake up natural when it’s gets lighter in your bedroom, instead of your alarm clock going off and it feels like it’s still in the middle of the night.

Get active and work out
Put on your kick-box gloves and beat this winter blues’ ass! 😉 It’s important to keep active! Even when your mind is telling you that you are tired, drag your cute butt to the gym. Make sure you have a least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. This could also be an lighter exercise since this will have a beneficial effect too. So take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Cycle to down-town or take your unicorn for an extra walk outside.

Keep warm
If you feel cold it makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. You can stay warm by wearing an extra hoody or get a warm coat if you go outside. But you can also keep yourself warm with hot drinks (tea with lemon) and hot food, like soup. Also don’t forget to keep your home between 18C and 21 C (or 64F and 70F degrees). Even a nice blanket when you crash on your couch can help you stay warm.

Eat healthy
A healthy diet will boost your mood! It will also give your more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. With mindful eating you can balance your cravings. Also make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. So hit the market and fill up your backpacks for extra vitamins D and healthy nutrition for your body and mind!

See your bff (best friend forever) and family
Research has shown that socialising is good for your mental health. Not just during the winter season but it will help you getting through the winter blues. Probably you don’t feel like going outside but since you are taking that walk to see the light you can also cycle to your friends home or visit your family. Make an effort to keep in tough with the world and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if it requires you to get in tight pants and heels! 😉 It will really help you to lift your spirits and if you are at this party usually it turns out to be fabulous.

Collect unicorns 
Believe it or not, keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of a winter depression. It could be anything, like knitting your own badass work-out socks, keeping a journal, collecting rubber ducks, learning how to sing the blues 😉 or trying out a new work-out and set a new challenge for your self. Whatever it is take up a new hobby!

Seek help
But if your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, don’t fear to seek for medical help. There is no shame it that. It takes guts and it is brave if you ask for help so we can help each other in shining again!

Everybody is affected differently by the winter blues, so what works for one Fit Girl won’t work for the other Fit Girl. But there’s usually something that can and will help you beat the winter blues, so don’t give up, when the first remedy you try doesn’t work. Just keep trying like these damn pull ups! YEAH!

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Comments

  1. agnes

    Woah.. thankss this helps allot 🙂

    • Stephanie

      You are welcome Agnes! 😀 I’m currently dealing with my winter blues and therefore decided to kick her ass by going to the gym four times this week! 🙂
      Hopefully you will also find your way through the winter months! Keep me posted so that we can motivate each other!

  2. Annemijn

    What a great post! Every year I’m dealing with a winter depression, and last year also a depression in summer… Haha. I’m getting help, also by medicines with indeed melatonin and serotonine! Thanks for your post! xx

    • Stephanie

      Thank you Annemijn :D! Sorry to read that you are dealing with a winter / summer depression every year. Good that you are getting help since it’s an biological process which is disturped and is in seek of medical care. Hopefully you will find your way in beating this winter depression down and keeping going strong!!! Hereby I send you lots of power hugs to support you through the next coming winter months!

      • Annemijn

        Ah thanks, you already helped me a lot by writing this article!!