Hills blanketed in snow and marshmallows dissolving in freshly-brewed hot chocolate. These are the images we conjure when fantasizing about winter.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few negative sides of the frigid season. Dangerous roads and power outages, to name a few. And let’s not forget Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, is quickly approaching.
Though not many people enjoy the dreary days of winter, they demotivate and damage your performance more than you realize. Our skin needs sunlight, so without it we produce melatonin. It’s the chemical that makes us lazy and sleepy. But in severe cases, it causes depression. It goes without saying that the disease has a number of detrimental effects on our minds and bodies. This makes the winter blues an all-too real phenomenon.
So how do we beat the winter blues that hurt our effectiveness at work? It’s quite simple, actually.
Build snowmen and have snowball fights
You need your exercise, after all. Winter mornings don’t exactly welcome joggers with open arms. Dark, slippery roads drive people away from the gym, too. An often-cited review of fitness research tells us the importance of exercising year-round. We produce serotonin, the happy hormone, when we work up a sweat. This reduces stress, helping us think clearly and work to our full potentials. On a greater level, the research tells us that exercise is a treatment for some mental health issues. These include anxiety and depression. In other words, exercise compensates for the winter sun’s rare appearances.
Of course, you can just stick to shoveling snow as your boring winter workout. It challenges your arms, legs, upper back and cardio, after all. Just know there are less-taxing options to help you beat the winter blues.
Take your vitamins
Get out of bed and grab a container of vitamins. Vitamin D is a good start. It’s the vitamin we absorb and store from sunlight. But we don’t keep enough in our systems to last the winter. People with low levels of vitamin D are at a high risk of hypertension. This leads to productivity-crushing effects such as chest pain and forms of cognitive impairment. Try thinking clearly under those conditions. Fortunately, a bottle of vitamin D is waiting for you at the nearest pharmacy.
We can’t ignore vitamin C, either. That’s easier said than done, though. As people cook meaty stews and other hearty meals to warm up, they neglect essential sources of vitamin C. These include greens and citrus fruits, which we enjoy in warmer seasons. A vitamin C pill in the morning strengthens your immune system, helping you ward off viruses, such as the common cold, that hurt effectiveness. As a bonus, your skin stays smooth and gums keep healthy – a much-preferred alternative to dry pores and inflamed mouths.
Use music to improve your mood during long commutes
Winter commutes are troublesome. They’re risky, which (deservedly) slows them down. These long trips are inevitably dull, and the last thing you want to do is walk into the office bored out of your skull.
That’s why you need to make your commute more enjoyable. Stop listening to talk radio – or no radio – on your drive to work. Change the station to something that plays great tunes. If you walk or ride public transit to the office, always equip your mp3 player. It’s not a secret: upbeat, vibrant music improves our moods. When we listen to it, we can fight and beat the winter blues.
But this is a bit of a secret: even sad music – played in the minor, as opposed to major, key – creates pleasant emotions, according to a 2013 study. More than 40 participants listened to samples of sad music and completed surveys. Turns out, they felt romantic and cheerful. They experienced no sentiments of neglect and bitterness, like you might expect. This shows that music naturally cheers us up. Listen to one of your favourite songs to inject some life into frigid and frustrating commutes.
But if you have a friend with you, take it one step further. Sing together.
A 2013 Finnish study surveyed about 1,000 students who took part in extended music classes, in which they regularly sang. The results say they’re considerably happier than their musically-uninterested counterparts. They reported getting more enjoyment out of working, a higher ability to cope with difficult tasks and an easier time getting along with others. Of course, these positive factors make for a better overall school experience.
But why shouldn’t adults enjoy the same benefits at work? Go ahead. Sing a tune with a team member to beat the winter blues.
End your day with a glass of red wine
But know this: you won’t be drinking purely for fun and relaxation. Red wine helps counter one of the productivity-damaging effects of winter: poor recollection. Extreme cold, and prolonged exposure to it, causes a number of conditions everyone wants to avoid. These include amnesia and central nervous system damage.
But have you ever struggled to remember your day’s schedule, or any other important information, when you retreat into the office after being out in the cold? Temperatures that may even seem mildly-warm in regularly-cold climates can damage your cognitive abilities, according to a 2006 study. Tasks that rely on your memory can be temporarily hurt. It’s also normal to notice increased response time and decreased accuracy in your work.
That’s why wine’s a winner. It’s filled with resveratrol, a natural chemical that protects the mind from degeneration. Short term, it helps you remember information. But it also stretches into the realm of your long-term memory and permanent cognitive function, according to a study of almost 6,000 seniors across four U.S. communities in the 1990s. Participants who had an average of one to six drinks each week had the lowest odds of developing dementia.
Just make sure to drink in moderation. Too many glasses certainly won’t help your memory, both short- and long-term.
Do you have any ways to beat the winter blues? How do you stay effective in the coldest time of the year? Let us know in the comments below!