by Laura Nalin, MA, LPC, CADC
As the seasons change, so too can our mental well-being. Many of us experience a boost in mood and overall happiness during the warm and sunny days of summer, only to feel a bit down and melancholic when winter arrives. This shift in our emotional state is not mere coincidence; it's a result of various factors. However, by understanding these dynamics, we can adopt tools and strategies from the summer season to cultivate mental well-being and embrace the winter with a warmer outlook.
Sunlight and Vitamin D One of the primary reasons we feel better mentally during summer is the increased exposure to sunlight. Sunlight triggers the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. Additionally, sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in mental health. To bring a piece of summer into winter, it's essential to seek out natural light whenever possible. Open your curtains, spend time outdoors during daylight hours, and consider using light therapy devices to mimic the effects of sunlight.
Outdoor Activities and Exercise Summer often brings a surge of outdoor activities, such as picnics, hikes, and beach outings. Engaging in physical activity outdoors not only enhances our physical health but also uplifts our mood and reduces stress. As winter arrives, it's important to maintain an active lifestyle. Embrace winter sports like skiing or ice skating, try indoor exercises like yoga or dancing, or simply bundle up and go for a brisk walk. Regular exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals, helping us combat winter blues.
Connection and Social Engagement Summer tends to foster a sense of community and social connection, with gatherings, barbecues, and vacations. During the colder months, it's crucial to prioritize maintaining our social connections. Plan indoor get-togethers with friends and family, engage in virtual hangouts, or join clubs and classes that align with your interests. Nurturing our relationships and staying socially active can bring warmth and joy to the winter season.
Embracing Nature and Seasonal Beauty Summer entices us with vibrant colors, blooming flowers, and lush greenery. However, winter has its unique beauty too, with snow-covered landscapes and cozy indoor settings. Embrace the winter by engaging in activities that allow you to appreciate nature's transformation. Take winter walks, visit botanical gardens or winter markets, or bring elements of nature indoors through houseplants and seasonal decorations. Connecting with nature, even in its winter form, can have a calming and uplifting effect on our mental well-being.
Self-Care and Hygge Summer often encourages a carefree and relaxed attitude. To combat the winter blues, adopt a self-care routine that nourishes your mind, body, and soul. Embrace the Danish concept of hygge, which promotes coziness, comfort, and mindful living. Surround yourself with soft blankets, light candles, indulge in warm beverages, and engage in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, listening to music, or practicing meditation. These self-care rituals can create a sense of warmth and contentment during the colder months.
While the summer may bring us a natural uplift in mental well-being, we can carry elements of summer into the winter season to maintain our emotional health. By harnessing sunlight, engaging in outdoor activities, nurturing our social connections, appreciating the beauty of winter, and practicing self-care, we can cultivate a sense of joy, tranquility, and resilience throughout the year. So, let's embrace the tools summer offers and infuse our winters with the same glow, allowing us to navigate the colder months with a sense of positivity and well-being!