When it’s so cold that you’d only go outside on a dare, all that time spent indoors can have an impact on your mental health.
"Cabin fever" can lead to symptoms of unhappiness, restlessness, and general discomfort, caused by being inside for too long. While cabin fever isn’t a diagnosable medical condition, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is, and there are numerous ways to treat it.
One such method is simply to move to greener pastures. A new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that moving into greener living spaces immediately increases a person’s mental wellness, and the positive effect lasts for up to three years after the move.
But before you pick up a change-of-address form, try some of these simpler tips to help shake off that claustrophobic feeling.
Change Your Diet
Changing your diet can help relieve the desire to stay under warm covers until June.
Lean proteins high in omega-3 fatty acids have been repeatedly linked to improved moods, and many of these foods—like lean beef and wild salmon—are also high in B12 and vitamin D, nutrients important for emotional regulation.
Take Up an Indoor Hobby
The walls won’t feel like they're closing in on you if you’re actively using the space in your home.
With a little creativity, you can turn your house into a winter fun zone. Grab your putter from the garage, some plastic cups from the kitchen, and turn the living room into a miniature golf course. Or, if you want to keep your property value up, you can check out indoor sports facilities in your area.
And, as we all know, there’s no wrong time for arts and crafts. Whether knitting or making a birdhouse, keeping your brain engaged in an activity is the best way to beat the blues.
Ever build a couch fort for a cozy reading getaway? Now is the time to try. Reading, after all, is good for you.
Exercise (and Yes, Sex Counts)
You probably have enough people telling you to exercise already, especially after all of those holiday cookies. But keeping up with your New Year's resolutions will also improve your mood.
If you don’t feel like braving the outdoors for a crowded gym, you can do plenty of exercises at home. Follow along with yoga videos on YouTube, or seduce your significant other into the sheets. Both activities increase the levels of serotonin and other crucial chemicals in the brain.
There’s a reason, after all, why more babies are born on Sept. 16 than any other day of the year—it’s nine months after the dead of winter.
As long as you’re getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day, you’ll do your brain and body a whole lot of good.
Get Outside (Eventually) and Get Some Vitamin D
You may not want to go outside when the wind chill makes your driveway colder than the surface of Mars, but consider heading out when the cold snap loosens its grip.
Being outside in the winter lets the sun reach your skin, even if it’s only on your face. This allows your body to produce vitamin D, which elevates mood. UV light therapy is a common treatment for SAD, too.
To keep the outdoors interesting, try picking up a winter sport, such as cross-country skiing, ice hockey, or snowshoeing. (Bonus points if you opt to build a luge course in your backyard.)
But you don’t have to wait for the beginning of the XXII Olympic Winter Games to pick up those skis. Simply going to an outdoor game to cheer on your local sports team is an excellent way to connect with others while also catching some rays.