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  • Writer's pictureShaelyn Heise

How to Feel Happier in the Darker Months

Statistics have proven and many of us know that when the weather gets colder, everything gets a little bit drearier. The sun is out for less time, so we're often left in the dark for more hours each evening. There are many ways we can utilize this time to encourage either positive or negative mental health habits. We can fall in line with the "Winter Blues", and just pass the time. Or we can prepare, be proactive and realize that we need to put in a little extra work to our mental health during these months. We can think of it as an opportunity, everyone is hiding in their homes. Why can't you focus on yourself and make yourself feel better!

There are many studies on this topic with a variety of solutions. I have tried a hand full of them, some I think are worthwhile and some not so much. A very popular study shows that sun exposure directly effects your mood by boosting your vitamin D3 levels. In the winter months when even during the peak of the day it is typically overcast, we lose this boost. You can do your best to try to get more sun exposure, brave the cold, maybe even build some snowmen! While I try to go for walks as often as I can during the winter months I will admit I favour the gym once the weather gets cold. I am lucky enough to live in an apartment complex that provides a gym, so that is a great option for me personally in terms of getting regular exercise. I try to supplement this shortage by using a Vitamin D lamp, that artificially immulates the sunlight spectrum.These lamps are the closest possible artificial light to the natural sunlight spectrum, so can be a great supplement. I am definetly not saying to sit staring at a lamp for hours on end each day, I will actually move mine around with me. In the morning, when I am getting ready it's sitting behind the mirror I am looking into. When I am making my breakfast and lunch, it's sitting on the countertop. When I am at my desk, it's placed behind my computer screen in my periferal view. You get the point, it's like my little tabletop buddy. While I can't tell you having this makes me 100% feel better, it is a step in the process. It is apart of the package.

Along with it comes nights spent using my favourite creative outlet; art. I can spend days on end in front of a canvas with my oil paints. This has been a huge factor in my healing process. Expressing myself through a paintbrush has been so helpful, and is also a great distraction. Finding something you enjoy, something to occupy your time and your mind. This cannot be your job, that doesn't count. Something that takes your mind away from anything. Mine is art but yours can be music, reading, video games, anything. Find this activity that you enjoy and focus on it during the months you are more prone to be indoors.

A hobby that I have always believed in but because of a back injury was set back in is exercise. Even if it isn't your favourite thing to do, it is a great idea for your mental health in the winter. Whether you are lucky like me and have access to a gym, or follow a Youtube video in your living room. Find a way to get more exercise into your routine. You will find over time not only does it boost your mood, you feeling good about your body image is a huge positive. Start slowly, and if you are hesitant about anything speak to your doctor. However you can make it work, try to be more active.

The complete opposite of the last tip, take time for self care. Time to relax, recharge and take care of your wellbeing. Whether this is a hot bath, reading a book, getting cozy to watch a movie or spending time with a friend. Schedule time for these things during the colder months, all year round actually. Taking care of your wellbeing is the #1 most important thing. Without your wellbeing there is no you, and we can't have that.

Check in with yourself like you would check in with a friend, if you prefer write in a journal. Ask yourself questions like do I feel more sad/angry/anxious than normal? Do I have less energy than normal? Am I still enjoying the things I always enjoy? These questions can lead you to the realization that you are overly stressed, depressed or anxious without knowing it. Asking yourself these questions each day and reading over them can help you make sure you're doing okay.

The final tip is related to the previous, don't be afraid to ask for help. No one is expected to endure this life alone, and everyone should have someone to talk to. There is no shame in talking to a professional, it is important to find a professional you connect with. Sometimes this can take time and a little extra effort but believe me it's so worth it. Having an outside perspective to what you're going through, can make all the difference. Even when I am doing well and not under a great deal of stress, I can still find countless topics to bring up to my therapist each week. Just having a person to express your ideas, thoughts and feelings to without judgment is so helpful. Especially when it is more common for people to be struggling, don't be afraid to reach out.

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