Fight the Winter Slump

Whether it’s political turmoil, the pandemic, cold, and snow, or a lack of sunlight that is causing some seasonal blues this winter, there are steps older adults can take to help shake off winter slump depression and keep an optimistic outlook.  Our mindset and attitude can have a significant impact on both mental health and physical well being, and while seniors wait for their turn to receive a coronavirus vaccine, it’s important to take proactive steps to maintain overall health.  

According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging Portal post, about 1 in 4 Canadians experience the “winter blues”.  Seasonal depression can leave people feeling lonely, sad, and generally fatigued.  Combined with continued isolation, the grey winter months can take a toll on physical and mental health.   But it doesn’t have to be a winter of discontent. By planning each day with intention, January and February can be months of growth and exploration. 

While it’s important to stay informed about world events as well as unfolding information regarding the pandemic, it’s also a good idea to limit screen time, especially if it causes anxiety.  Planning outdoor activities whenever the weather permits can keep people physically active, and time outdoors in nature is a natural mood-booster and can help adults maintain a healthy sleep cycle.   Use walking poles or boot grips for extra stability and keep a safe 6-foot distance from others outside your household. 

Journaling is also a beneficial habit to form that has been found to help people reframe their negative thoughts.  Writing thoughts and feelings down each day can be a release, allowing people experiencing worry, anxiety, fear, or depression to vent.  Adding thoughts and feelings of gratitude for things like a warm home, enough food, and love-ones can turn what may seem like a dark time into something more optimistic. 

To help cultivate more resiliency this winter, it’s also important to connect with others socially, whether in person or virtually.  We need to make time to nurture our relationships; they will help see us through difficulties life is bound to throw our way from time to time.  Start a virtual game night or book club or gather friends for a virtual cooking class.  

A random act of kindness between friends or strangers feels good and helps to spread kindness and hope in what can seem like a harsh and cold and unjust world.  Drop off some home-baked cookies to an elderly neighbor, pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line or mail a letter to a loved one, just because.  

Read more about how to beat the winter slump by following this link to the National Institutes of Health News in Health page.