It’s that time of year again! The days are shorter, the weather colder and I start to feel like a hibernating bear. Staying motivated during the winter becomes a struggle. Sound familiar?
I cherish the few days the sun shines brightly on the sparkling snow. I feel generally happier and wish that every winter day were the same. It’s not though. It’s usually grey, cloudy and dark by 4 pm.
I experience this decrease in motivation with many others in the northern hemisphere (Canada here!). We can’t avoid the seasonal changes, it’s something we have to live with, but we can create habits to stay motivated during the winter months.
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IS IT WINTER BLUES OR S.A.D.?
There’s a difference between the “winter blues” and what has been classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The winter blues are extremely common. You’re experiencing this general decrease in energy, however, it doesn’t affect your ability to enjoy life. The cold dark days of the winter causes this gloomy feeling and makes it harder to stay motivated during the winter months.
On the other hand, Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as S.A.D.) is a form of depression that starts in the Fall and last through the Winter. People with the disorder find it affects all areas of their life and impacts them every day. They may notice they are sleeping more than usual, have a loss of interest in activities they used to like, have trouble focusing, and have a feeling of hopelessness. In some cases, people suffering from S.A.D. have suicidal thoughts.
If you think you are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder see your doctor. You may need help during the seasons you are affected.
HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED DURING THE WINTER MONTHS
Whether you’re suffering from the Winter Blues or have S.A.D. there are habits you can incorporate in your life to stay motivated during the winter months.
Get Up Early
With less sunlight during these months, it’s so important that we’re active while the sun is up. Although it’s easy to stay in your warm bed when it’s cold, getting up early will help keep your melatonin and serotonin levels balanced.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and mood regulator. Low levels have been associated with depressive disorders, including S.A.D. There are several reasons why you might not be producing enough and sunlight is one of them.
Sunlight is also a natural regulator for our circadian rhythm or our internal clock. It controls our sleep cycle – when we start to feel tired at night and when we begin to wake in the morning. In fact, before the invention of electricity, our bodies relied heavily on sunlight. Rising with the sun can help you stay motivated during the winter months.
I like to take a Vitamin D supplement during the winter months and I recommend anyone living in the Northern hemisphere pick up this habit.
Our skin naturally produces Vitamin D when it’s exposed to the ultraviolet light in sunlight. This is extremely easy to do during the hot summer months when a lot of our skin is exposed and the days are longer. However, during the winter we’re covered in warm clothing and don’t get enough hours of light to produce enough. A daily Vitamin D supplement is a good temporary alternative.
Exercise comes up often as a solution to a lot of our problems, including fighting the winter blues. It fights disease and it’s also a mood booster! If you’ve ever been in a funk and felt better after a walk or run, then you know what I’m saying here.
When you exercise your body releases endorphins which boosts your sense of happiness. Exercising also suppresses the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that cause stress and anxiety (source).
So next time your feeling lethargic and unmotivated, especially during the winter months, consider adding exercise into your routine. It will increase your sense of wellbeing which will make you feel happier and more energetic.
Spend Time Outdoors
It’s easy to become cooped up indoors when it’s cold and dark outside. However, this can start to affect your wellbeing, cause isolation and lead to low mood.
Stay motivated during the winter months by getting outdoors when you can. Dress for the weather and go for a stroll if there is a mild day. Grab a bus and head to a bustling area in your city. Be around people. Go skating or sledding.
There are plenty of ways you can plan some outdoor activities during the winter. The fresh air and change of routine will energize you and uplift your mood.
Artificial Light Therapy
One tool used by people with Seasonal Affective Disorder is artificial light therapy. Even if you don’t have S.A.D. but are lethargic during the short winter days, artificial light can still benefit you.
One method I find really interesting is wake-up light therapy. Companies such as Philips have manufactured light therapy alarm clocks that help regulate your circadian rhythm by syncing it with the rising and falling of the sun. As you sleep the light therapy works by slowly becoming brighter, like the dawn, until the specified time you set to wake up. The creators of these technologies claim you wake up feeling more rested because it works with your natural circadian rhythm.
I haven’t personally tried one of these light therapy alarm clocks but have always wanted to test one out. If you use one please share your experience in the comments below!
Eat a Healthy Diet
Like exercise, eating a healthy diet is like medicine, it cures a lot of preventable problems. To help you stay motivated during the winter months, focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods that will improve your mood and health.
Foods with tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, magnesium, vitamin D and selenium will help you avoid the low energy associated with the winter (source). Whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meats, eggs, beans and legumes, and green leafy vegetables should be readily available in your home throughout the winter.
Be Kind to Yourself
Lastly, I always like to remind everybody to be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect. We all feel low and lethargic in the winter, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
If you think you are suffering from more than the winter blues, please seek the help of your doctor. Otherwise, give some of these tips a try and see if they help you.
Give some of the tips in this post a try and let me know about your experience in the comments below.
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