It’s that time of year again, when shorter days and colder temperatures have many of us warming up to the idea of staying in, curling up with a book, and basically hiding until spring arrives. While extra rest can be useful, enjoying the slowdown a little too much can lead to feeling downright unmotivated.
If you have a case of the winter blues or feel a bit lethargic, here are a few tips for hitting the reset button and restoring your energy.
Regulate your body clock
Waking up in the colder months can be challenging, and there’s a good reason for that. Our internal body clocks are regulated by exposure to light. This means that shorter days and less sun can throw things off balance, leaving you feeling sluggish and sleep deprived.
While a winter camping or hiking trip can be a fun way to reset your body clock, the great outdoors aren’t always accessible (or comfortable) for all of us. Instead, here are some other suggestions for what you can do on a daily basis to expose yourself to more light and encourage restful sleep.
- Get adequate sleep every day of the week: You may need more sleep during the winter, so take that into account when it comes to keeping your schedule consistent. That means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day—and avoiding attempts to make up for lost sleep on the weekend.
- Expose yourself to sunlight: Soak in sunlight and a little fresh air with a stroll before you head into the office, or pop out for a quick walk at lunchtime. Also, try to allow as much light as possible into your workspace. If natural light isn’t plentiful, try a light therapy lamp for your desk or a sunrise alarm clock.
- Turn devices off well before bedtime: The blue light emitted by smartphones and tablets can actually throw off your internal body clock and sleep schedule. For better sleep, avoid screen time a few hours before you head to bed.
Pro tip: One easy way to make it easier to avoid blue light is to automate the night mode or filtered light settings on your phone. Look for these controls in the display settings menu or pull-down notification area on your device. Enable these settings from sunset to sunrise or between certain hours, such as 8:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
While there’s no magic solution for fending off winter sleepiness, the trick to finding your ideal routine for restfulness may be in consistency. Find the combination of rest and exposure to natural light that works for you, and stick to it.
Find energy—on your plate
While we all know that it’s good for us to maintain a healthy diet, food choice can play an extra important role when it comes to boosting our mood in the winter.
Vibrant seasonal foods can have an positive effect based simply on the way that they look. And there’s also the added benefit of feel-good neurotransmitters set off in our brains when we eat certain mood-boosting and nutrient-rich foods.
Here are some winter foods for health and energy to add to your shopping list:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges, are high in vitamin C and can help boost your immune system and fend off fatigue. Even citrus essential oils used for aromatherapy can have similar energizing effects. Put a few drops of lemon or grapefruit oil in a spray bottle and give your room a spritz first thing in the morning or use with an essential oil diffuser at home.
- Leafy greens are high in magnesium, which can have a mood-lifting effect.
- Fish such as tuna and salmon can be high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids and can also have a positive impact on mood.
- Whole grains such as oatmeal can promote a sense of calm.
If you need help with recipes or are feeling curious about trying something healthy and new, get a partner, friends, or family involved. After all, if this is a new habit for you, partnering with others can be a great source of encouragement and fun.
Develop a positive new habit
Maybe you’ve resolved to eat better, exercise more, or pursue some other goal this winter.
The work you put into learning about and investing in that habit may help you feel more focused, happier, and even help you gain a sense of fulfillment in your personal and professional life.
If you’re wondering how to make your next new habit stick, try:
- Gretchen Rubin’s tactic to find out what motivates you: Find your tendency. Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Once you identify your type, you may find it easier to develop and maintain positive habits.
- The S.M.A.R.T. tactic: Map out your goals throughout the year by determining Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound objectives.
With commitment, consistency, and a little bit of luck, you’ll find the right blend of structure and incentive to build the habits that will keep you energized all winter long.
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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.