Winter in the Pacific Northwest can be challenging. Between the rain and the lack of daylight, it’s not uncommon for winter weather to affect how we feel. In Seattle, we get just about 8.5 hours of daylight each day in early January. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body's internal clock and lower your melatonin and serotonin levels. The dark, rainy weather also means that you are less likely to maintain your regular outdoor exercise routine.
Sometimes we forget to take good care of ourselves. Here are some health reminders to help you make it through the winter:
Seek the sunshine
- Go outside during daylight hours, even if it’s cloudy. Exposure to natural light will help boost your mood and serotonin.
- Mimic sunlight in your home. Use a sun lamp to get a healthy dose or UV rays, or hang cheerful holiday lights to bring some extra light into your space.
- Take a trip somewhere sunny (or just plan one—research shows that even planning a trip can increase happiness).
Give yourself something to look forward to
- Make plans with family and friends.
- Sign up for a class or join a club.
- Take time to engage in activities you enjoy.
Take care of your body
- Choose a healthy, balanced diet packed with lean protein, vegetables and fruits.
- Drink plenty of water.
- If you have leftover holiday goodies, give them away or put them in the freezer to enjoy in moderation later.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day. Exercise increases serotonin and endorphins, which affect mood.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep
- Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night for best health and mental function.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to help stabilize your circadian rhythms.
Photo by Jay Thompson, license: Creative Commons 2.0
If these simple tips don’t help brighten your mood, you may need to consider getting extra help. Talk to your primary medical care provider about what you can do to feel better.