What causes our moods to take a turn for the worst in the colder months? Scientists still don't know! So, instead of picking one of the many theories to talk about, we'll take the logical approach for you and keep things simple. What could cause a person to go from Happy Harry in the Summer to Negative Nancy in the Winter? Here are a few ideas: less daylight, the cold, fourth quarter stress at work, holiday spending emptying your bank account, or maybe just too much eating. According to a guy named Charles Swindoll, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it". What can you do?
1. Don't snooze in the morning.
But the blanket feels so good! If you snooze, you lose. Don't fall into the trap. Bad habits will ruin your goals. The sunrise gets later so it's darker in your bedroom when the alarm goes off for your morning workout. Be proactive. Put the alarm clock on the opposite side of the room. Turn the bedroom light on when you get up to turn it off. Your body's internal clock is sensitive to light and dark. Since the natural sunlight probably isn't available as early as you need it to be in the winter, turn the bedroom light on to let it know it's go-time.
2. Keep your exercise habits.
It's cold out! Thank you, Captain Obvious. We all need a little motivation every now and again so find a way to hold yourself accountable. If excuses start creeping in when your alarm goes off, get up. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make us happy. Have you ever gotten a "runner's high"? It's because those endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body that feels a little "euphoric". A few ideas for you: have a weight-losing competition with friends, plan a winter vacation to a place you'll need to be in a bathing suit, have a workout buddy.
3. Get your cortisol down.
Why is this important?
Cortisol is known as "the stress hormone". Typically, it's released in response to waking up in the morning, exercise, and acute stress (extreme example: the mom who lifted the car off her 3-year-old in 2012) . In these moments of stress, your body tells your adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. Increased cortisol levels trigger the release of glucose to be used as energy. This is a healthy bodily function. What's NOT healthy is the ever-stressful lifestyle that has become accepted in today's world. Fourth quarter at most of our jobs brings on a winter full of unhealthy stress (i.e. your boss tells you the project that was supposed to be due in a month is now due today). The key is to get your cortisol levels back down ASAP once you no longer need that energy boost. Why? Because any extra glucose leftover will be stored as fat!
Scientific studies have shown that Vitamin C is highly effective at decreasing cortisol. Foods highest in vitamin C? Peppers, kale, kiwi, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits. Your next best option is Omega 3s. Look to walnuts for this. Solution? Take some walnuts, strawberries, or an orange to work to snack on when things are getting a little hectic!
4. Take care of your money.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend more than 800% more during the Winter holidays versus any other holiday. "Money continues to be a top cause of stress for Americans", American Psychological Association study. Knowing that a lack of money leads to stress, plan ahead! Calculate how much you'd like to spend on gifts during the holidays, divide it by how many paychecks you'll receive by then, and have the discipline to put it aside. Allow yourself to enjoy the gift-giving this Winter.
Unless you live in San Diego, you cannot control the arrival of the cold weather and shorter days. You cannot control what season Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah fall in. You also have absolutely no control over most of the stresses your company will lay on you in Q4. Focus on what you CAN control. Don't snooze the alarm, turn on the bedroom light as soon as you're up, exercise regularly, keep your cortisol down, and control your finances.