Today (Monday January 20th, 2020) is known as "Blue Monday" - a, for all intents and purposes, made-up date that signifies the apparent saddest day of the year. It isn't too far of a stretch to think about how depressing of a day today can be, with the holidays clearly in our review mirror, and summer still many weeks away. The days are still short, the weather is cold, damp, and gross, and the next long weekend (for us Canadians) isn't for another month.
Today is a good opportunity to share an article I was interviewed for in the "Sideroads of Caledon" magazine, winter edition, back towards the end of 2019:
BEATING THE WINTER BLUES
What you can do to feel better
story by CHRISTINE DAVIS
As the days get shorter, colder and darker many of us notice a shift in our mood. From feeling more tired, to sad or downright depressed, the winter blues can really affect our lives.
“The way our customers describe it,” says Nicky French from the supplements department at Harmony Whole Foods Market in Orangeville, is “feeling low, lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm and some say they feel depressed.” She notes there’s certainly a correlation between the seasons and people’s mood.
While some people who feel the winter blues will be diagnosed with depression, some will be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is caused by a lack of sunlight.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, two to three per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime and another 15 per cent will experience a milder form of SAD that leaves them only slightly depressed.
When these feelings hit there are a few things, outside of medical attention, that can help.
Strength and Conditioning Coach and Director of Fitness at Athlete Institute Training Centre in Mono Tyler Robbins says that “exercise has not only been shown, time and time again via many studies, to help with improving mood and cognition,” but it can also help with motivation.
Many of the members at Athlete Institute Training Centre describe their ability to accomplish more when they start their day with a great workout and Robbins says this can help with the winter blues, too. Morning workouts increase energy levels, heighten mood, “and their feeling of accomplishment is already running high to start the day,” all of which is a great way to combat feelings of sadness.
Beyond training clients, Robbins says Athlete Institute Training Centre runs busy classes so members have the ability to workout next to others, which often leads to new friendships, while also improving mood and motivation. He also recommends bringing close friends to the gym. “I know for a fact that many of our members stay motivated and consistent with their gym schedule based on showing up and working out with close friends of theirs.”
But what is it about exercise that helps alleviate symptoms of winter blues?
“Often referred to as a ‘runner’s high’, the endorphin and hormonal rush one gets following a workout can be rewarding and addictive,” explains Robbins. “When we exercise, our bodies are actually being broken down as we lift weights and stress our muscles and connective tissues. This trains our bodies to not only be able to respire better, breathe and pump blood via our heart, but to repair and improve the strength of our connective tissues and bones. We get rewarded by our brains when we invest in our health via exercise, through improved circulation and a cascade of feel good hormones.”
And although Robbins admits it’s more difficult to get outside through the cold, dark months from October through March, “we can still come up with plenty of creative, fun, and challenging ways to engage our minds and bodies through functional movements.”
Make sure to head over to check out the rest of the edition of Sideroads magazine.
B.Sc., CSCS, CCFT