January is often a long month after the excitement of Christmas and the New Year holidays, and is considered to be one of the most difficult times of the year. In fact, studies suggest that many people feel the January Blues, with the most depressing day of the year named as Blue Monday, on the 16th January. The third Monday of January was anointed with this ignominious title due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and far too much additional credit card debt after holiday sprees are over.
For seniors, this is also a difficult time physically as well with winter weather settling in and more restriction of movement and activity. We gleaned some ideas from this recent post here with ten tips to beat back the winter blues for seniors.
The vitamin D from natural light can help to improve your mood and sunlight is one of the most effective remedies for winter depression. It has been shown to improve the body’s circadian rhythm and boost serotonin levels. Many seniors can benefit from spending some time outside each day and we do have some of our residents at Brookhouse Home taking daily walks in our garden and getting fresh air and sunshine even on cold days. For those living in their own home but can’t make it out, be sure to open the blinds or curtains and sit near a window. Further, ask someone to help by trimming the trees or bushes that are keeping light from entering your home.
Exercise, while important all year round, can be vital to lifting you up during the winter months. You can exercise indoors or dress in layers and take your exercise outdoors for some fresh air, if the temperature isn’t too cold. Stretching and walking are a couple of ideas to get you started. Brookhouse Home offers daily exercises including yoga and meditation.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
We have three cooked meals a day at Brookhouse Home which we find sustaining, healthy and delicious. Eating a balanced diet is essential for older adults and is a natural way to boost your mood and energy. Provide your body with the right combination of proteins, carbohydrates, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Avoid the temptation to eat unhealthy snacks, and instead, snack on complex carbohydrates and super foods such as blueberries and Greek yogurt.
Socializing With Others
Being around other people and/or talking to them can lift your spirits. Get together with friends or family or simply give them a call. Attending a church service or volunteering in the community are other great ways to be around people, spark conversation and shift your perspective. Assisted living is all about community and connection and we do think of the Brookhouse Home as an excellent example of how valuable and beneficial community living is.
Keep Up Your Routine
When experiencing the winter blues, it can be tempting to alter your schedule to avoid activities and socialization – and hibernate instead. For example, if you prepared dinner at a certain time every day, try to stick to that same schedule. Or if you typically attend Sunday services at your church, don’t skip it this time of year. Routines are important for all of us and we do have a schedule of activities that change daily during the week – we try to schedule something special to look forward to.
Plan or Anticipate a Fun Event
Having something to look forward to can help to create positive feelings. If you can’t think of something to look forward to, then create something! Invite your grandchildren or a friend over for a visit, plan an outing with a loved one or buy yourself a special treat.
Practice Meditation and Mindfullness
If you feel like you see suggestions for meditation everywhere, there’s a good reason. A meditation and mindfulness practice helps relax your mind, body and soul. With so many things out of your control and a seemingly endless to-do list, meditating allows you to focus on the current moment and your breath.
Studies also show that mediation has a myriad of health and wellness benefits, from reducing chronic pain to alleviating depression. The more you struggle with the winter doldrums, the more reason to tune inward and help control your sad and anxious mind. Get started with just a five-minute daily session. Apps like Calm or Insight Timer offer free guided meditations which many beginners find easier than simply sitting quietly on your own. We do daily mediation at the Brookhouse Home led by our activities director Marsha DeCesare.
Watch A Favorite Film
When all else fails in beating the winter doldrums, throw on an old favorite film—bonus points if it makes you laugh. The more reminiscent of your childhood or happier years, the better. Focusing on pleasant memories and utilizing the power of nostalgia, particularly as you age, is a mood booster. Harness some healthy escapism this winter season with a trip down memory lane.
Take a Break From the News
Let’s face it, at the moment, many (if not most) segments on cable news are full of doom and gloom. Although it’s important to stay informed, the constant onslaught of negative stories is not mentally healthy, particularly if you already struggle with staying positive during winter. If it’s stressing you out, take a break. Put down the newspaper, exit the news apps and most importantly, limit social media use. The human brain is primed to react to negativity. As such, limiting the stimulus that puts your mind in a state of stress will significantly improve your overall mood and outlook.
If you want to keep up-to-date, give yourself a designated time of day to listen, read or watch the news—then choose other activities from this list to fill the rest of your day.
Learn to Use a Virtual Communication Platform
Not knowing when you’ll be able to see and hug your loved ones is distressing. As a stopgap, master one of the many virtual communication platforms (i.e., Skype, Zoom, Facetime), so you can at least see each others’ faces. Spending quality time together, even while miles apart, is a proven mood booster. For seniors struggling with technology, this might seem daunting at first. Fortunately, there are many resources available to remedy this. For example, check out this beginner’s guide.
Whatever you do to keep winter blues at bay, it is always important to remember the famous last line in the poem “Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley. “If winter comes , can spring be far behind?” is the last line of the poem. The line is imbued with the spirit of optimism . It builds an aura of hope and positivity and motivates one to never lose hope.