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Tapestry Corner – The Winter Blues and You

Posted by Diane Tonelli OTR/L, MHA CDP Clinical Director of Tapestry on | No Comments

If you’re starting to feel glum, listless and irritable this time of year, you’re not alone. The days are shorter, holiday bills are piling up … we have hit the “winter blues” time of year.

Here in New England, the winter blues can be prevalent due to our very cold temperatures and decreased hours of sunlight in addition to the fact most of us have a decreased level of activity and poorer eating habits during winter.

All of us are susceptible, including those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Mood swings in those with memory problems can be exaggerated and agitation can creep up more easily as a result of these  winter blues.

If you, or a friend or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease  or dementia are starting to feel glum, listless and irritable this time of year here are five simple tips to follow to shake those blues away:

  1. Spend quality time with friends

“Emotional light” is connecting with other people. This is just as critical as environmental light when it comes to eliminating the winter blues. Plan activities outside of the home with people and limit the time you to sit at home alone.  Research indicates people who boast a large support network of friends are the healthiest and outlive others by approximately 22 percent. Families and memory care communities can help people deal with the feelings of irritability and listlessness and support feelings of belonging to boost self-esteem by hosting engaging social events. The next time you or a loved one is feeling blue, call up a friend for coffee or join a club in your area … the possibilities are endless, and connecting with other people can do wonders for the emotions.

  1. Adopt healthy eating habits

Winter blues can partially be a result of our change in eating habits during the holidays. Get yourself back on a healthy eating schedule and be sure to stay hydrated. Aside from omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods, some examples of foods that can have a beneficial effect on mood include turkey, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, organic potatoes, corn, and rice grain. And of course, don’t forget to eat dark chocolate.  Consuming dark chocolate, with 70% cocoa or more, on a regular basis is known to enhance mood, amongst other health benefits.

  1. Use the internet to stay connected:

There are currently many home devices on the market geared toward face-to-face communication. Set up yourself, or your loved one — especially those who are isolated, with a device that can reach out to friends and family.  Many older Americans suffer from depression that is often brought on by feelings of isolation. New research has found that using the internet to stay connected can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent.

  1. Get regular exercise

With regular physical activity,  your body releases endorphins, which help increase energy levels and improve mood. If you can’t schedule an hour-long sweat session, carve out 15 minutes for push-ups and jumping jacks before your morning shower, get an exercise routine in during your lunch break, squeeze in a brisk afternoon walk and/or attend an evening yoga flow. Reward yourself with dark chocolate!

  1. Get regular amounts of daylight.

Whatever the light source, natural sunlight helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycles, which can be thrown off during times where there is less daylight. The restorative nature of sleep and a regular sleep cycle will help stabilize your mood. The best way to get valuable light is to go outside in the sun for 10-20 minutes a day, but that is not often possible in the dead of winter. Using lamps in your home with full spectrum lighting during daylight hours, can be a beneficial alternative. 

Beating the winter blues is not impossible, and following these simple tips can go a long way towards regaining a healthy mental outlook, reducing those negative moods.

Your brain and your body will thank you!