Winter is coming! We know this season can be tough for some as shorter days, dark mornings, overcast days and colder temperatures can zap you of your energy, and make it tough to stay in your routine. You’re not alone! It may be tempting to start skipping early morning workouts when it's dark and cold, cave to some less than nutritious comfort food, especially around the holidays. But, with a bit of planning and goal setting, you can stay on track and beat the winter blues.
You may wonder, why do some people get the winter blues, or seasonal depression, and why do others not seem to be impacted? Experts aren’t certain, but some think that the seasonal changes disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, our 24-hour clock that regulates how we function during sleeping and waking hours that we have talked about before HERE. When our circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can cause us to feel drowsy at times, while other times we are totally energized and alert, and a lot of this can be correlated to the lack of sunlight.
Another theory is that the changing seasons disrupt hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well-being. (source)
Winter blues typically can include:
- Feelings of depression that happen most of the day, in a seasonal pattern (This is knowns as seasonal affective disorder and something you may want to talk to your medical provider about if you are really struggling.)
- Feeling tired / having low energy
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Changes in appetite or weight gain
- Sleeping more than usual
The good news? There are things you can do to beat the winter blues and keep making progress towards our goals!
Here are 10 things you can do this winter to stay on track and combat the winter blues:
Set goals – Goal setting doesn’t just have to be long term, or done exclusively in January. Think about what you want to accomplish this winter season and make the commitment to stick with your habits. Perhaps you can join a gym, find an accountability group, or hire a coach to help keep you on track.
These goals can include nutritional habits, gym attendance, strength goals, body composition change, skill development such as learning a new hobby in this dreary time, etc. Write them down, be specific, measure your progress, and tell someone if you want to increase the likelihood of following through!
Stay in your routine as much as possible - We get it, it is much harder to get out of a warm cozy bed at 5 am when it is dark, cold and rainy or snowy. BUT, your body likes routine! The more you can stay in your routine, the easier it will be! Don’t let your training times become ad hoc. Set aside your weekly training slots ahead of time and don’t give yourself the option of skipping. Some people prefer to train before work, some after work, whatever your preference, get your routine nailed down and stick to it!
If you’re finding it harder to get up for your morning workout, start thinking about being one foot out the door and lay out your clothes the night before. Set them next to your bed, or on your bathroom counter, so you don’t have to go searching for them - just jump out of bed, change and go. We also love the 5 second rule so you don’t hit snooze!
The same goes for afternoon workouts. Have your gym bag packed so you’re ready to roll. If you’re heading over from work, change clothes before you leave, so you’re less likely to bail out. You can even incorporate a PRE workout to give yourself a boost of energy and we always recommend cranking up your favorite workout music to get you in the mood!
Monitor activity – Another thing you can do to keep movement on target is gauge how active you are. Use your phone, an Apple watch, Oura ring, FitBit, etc. or an old school pedometer to get feedback on how much, or how little, movement you have done. An hour a day in the gym is great, but what you do in the remaining 23 hours of the day will largely determine your success.
Simple things that can help keep your step count high: park in the back of the parking lot, join a step challenge, take the stairs, find an indoor walking track, bundle up and do 2-3 short walks, do more chores around the house, etc.
Keep food Quality high and be prepared – There’s something about colder nights, roaring fires and getting cozy on the sofa that influences our dietary habits. Occasional treats are fine, if they are just that...occasional. If you want year round results make a lifestyle choice and opt for healthy foods and drinks the majority of the time.
Plan ahead, stay in your normal grocery shopping and meal prep routine. Don’t leave things to chance because we know this is when temptations set in and we are more likely to overindulge or opt for what is convenient, and that is never as nourishing as what we would prepare at home.
One of the biggest reasons we want to ensure food quality stays high is because we know that processed food and sugars not only leave us craving more unhealthy foods, but also don’t provide as many nutrients as whole foods. You can learn more about the importance of food quality in our blog HERE.
Include some of your seasonal favorites in a healthier way, we have some healthy fall recipes HERE and HERE. We also love eating in season so you can add pumpkin to your favorite chili recipe, or make a high protein lasagna, lighter tomato soup, etc. You can also use a meal prep service or grocery delivery service if you find yourself struggling to get to the store.
Keep Vitamin D levels adequate! Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" for a reason. Your body makes it when sunlight hits the skin. During the winter, it's more important to keep your vitamin D levels up because you are at greater risk for getting sick, and tend to spend less time outdoors and expose less skin to soak in the Vitamin D. As always, we recommend getting your Vitamin D levels checked a couple times a year and supplementing appropriately.
According to one meta-analysis, researchers found that people with depression have low vitamin D levels, and people with low vitamin D are at a greater risk of depression. (source)
Our Vitamin D is high potency, 5000IU per capsule, and is clean and sustainably sourced with no artificial ingredients or fillers. One of the biggest benefits of Vitamin D is supporting calcium and nutrient absorption.
Get a Happy Light! For those of us who live in colder climates and don’t have the luxury of sunshine year round, light therapy is a great way to bring daylight indoors!
Our brain’s chemistry and internal body-clock [our circadian rhythm] are both affected by light, and light stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters that greatly influence our overall feelings of well-being. Bright light exposure early in the day stimulates production of serotonin - a neurotransmitter that improves mood and happiness - and regulates melatonin in the evening, which also helps with sleep.
Verilux light boxes mimic daylight by providing full spectrum light without harmful UV rays. Full spectrum, or natural light, provides important signals to the body to help you relax, focus, and feel revitalized. If you can't get outdoors or there's not enough natural light available, adding a HappyLight to your daily routine can help stimulate the production of these important hormones naturally, to keep your body running like clockwork. (source)
Keep up with your personal hygiene - We know many people are working from home these days making it much easier to sit in sweatpants and comfy clothes rather than getting ready for a day in the office. However, getting dressed, putting makeup on, doing your hair, and shaving can boost your mood and make you feel better about yourself! So, get up, take a shower, make yourself presentable - consider this your confidence cape!
Make lists and time block your day- What gets scheduled, gets done :) As we go through the holiday season, our to-do list can become very overwhelming. So we recommend making lists to stay organized and in control of your time. You can make a list for anything and everything that you feel you need to help make your life easier - kids/family needs, work priorities, home chores, social events, etc.
Think about things that make you feel good and more organized, like straightening up around the house before you go to bed, planning out your family dinners and making a grocery list for the week or cleaning out your closet. These tasks don’t have to be big; they’re just meant to help you feel grounded and productive.
Delegate as necessary -We all want to be superman/superwoman, but the reality is that one can only accomplish so much in a day. During this season you may find yourself carrying the burden of everything on your own such as party planning, Christmas shopping, packing for holiday travel or a vacation, cleaning, laundry, the list goes on… However, a highly underutilized way to combat some of this is to delegate tasks to family members, friends, or outsource things as you can! Although it may seem easier to control everything yourself, in the end, delegating can help you manage your stress levels.
Split up house chores and include your family. Cleaning the house doesn’t have to be a whole day project, you can do little bits each day and assign each person a job :) If you’re hosting parties, ask for help from your guests! Have them bring a dish, drinks or even help with decor! This not only helps you with your stress levels, it also gives you time BACK to be able to do the things that are important to you and your goals such as staying consistent with your workouts!
- Surround yourself with positive people and do things that bring you joy! Call a friend, meet for coffee, host a chili cook off or game night, set up a group zoom call, whatever it is that you enjoy doing and helps you stay connected with others!
Lastly, remember that this is a temporary season and you’re not alone! Do your best to manage stress, stay in your routine by being proactive and know that the dreary cold season will pass and soon we will enjoy sunny days and hopefully travel to the beach to rock your swimsuit because you’ve worked hard to stay healthy and fit during the winter months!