Dreading winter? Try to lighten up

(Photo: Getty Images)

Another Ohio winter is upon us. 

The extra hours of darkness or slate-gray skies can easily drag down a mood already challenged by the pandemic. We’re socializing less often, hunkering down, and shelving vacation plans to warmer and brighter tropical spots.

Meanwhile, we have to tackle what seems like an endless string of Zoom meetings while trying to edge our kids into get-it-done mode, and at the end of the day, confront the same hurdle: What’s for dinner?

So how do we keep pandemic exhaustion from descending into depression?

David Wirt, a counselor with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has some advice on how to lighten your mood in the coldest months of the year.

  1. Get out in the sunlight every day. Sunlight not only infuses us with vitamin D, it can lift a drooping mood. Even if it’s not sunny, getting outside is helpful, especially in natural places.
  2. Keep the indoors as light as possible, opening blinds and turning on lights. Light stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that contributes to happiness and can help ward off seasonal depression.
  3. Stay in contact with people through phone and online conversations, even by texting. Although you might be socializing in person less often, social contact is important.
  4. Exercise—outdoors or indoors. It can help trigger neurotransmitters in the brain that improve mood as well as focus.
  5. Watch out for patterns of too much or too little sleep—more than nine or less than six for adults.
  6. Vent in a healthy way by exercising (a tennis ball can take a good whack without breaking), writing, talking to someone, or taking deep breaths.
  7. Try to take slow, deep breaths even just for a couple of minutes. That can keep you from sending that email you might later regret.

For more advice on staying mentally healthy this season, visit go.osu.edu/copingnow. Resources for Ohio State students can be found at go.osu.edu/CARESwellness.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

David Wirt