By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
The winter can be a tough time of year for our mental health. We are all thrown back into the grind after holiday fun, the weather is dreary, and life can just feel desolate. Every year after the holidays pass, I dread the long January and February! If I am not proactive about my mental health, I find myself slowly sliding into a season of depression.
Thankfully there are some natural ways we can help guard ourselves against the winter blues. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” Taking care of our minds and bodies is an important part of our faith. God wants us to be good stewards of the bodies he has given us. He desires for us to live joy-filled lives and a huge part of living joyfully depends on us being good caretakers of our minds and bodies.
Here are five great ways to combat anxiety and depression during the dark winter months:
1. Get Back to the Gym
Your New Year's goal to get back to the gym may really help your mood even more than your waistline. All it takes is 15 minutes a day of running or walking to reduce your risk of depression. Adding physical activity to your routine helps to release mood-boosting endorphins. The good news is small additions of physical movement add up to deliver great results. No need to feel like you need to spend hours at the gym in order to gain the boost you are looking for.
As a mom of four, spending lots of time working out is not possible. I have realized that making small goals and celebrating small victories like a walk around my block a few times a week is still a big win. Following online 30-minute workouts, taking a relaxing stroll in the evenings, or squeezing 20 minutes in at the gym are all ways to help keep the black cloud of depression away. My motivation for moving my body is to stay happy. While I hope to maintain a healthy physique, what is more important for me is that I keep a healthy mind and spirit.
2. Plan a Winter Trip
One part of the winter lull is that there isn’t much to look forward to on the calendar. I know most of us wait for the summer months to plan our vacations and getaways, but I think it may be even more helpful to plan a weekend away in the dead of winter. Vacations reduce stress by removing people from the things that we associate with stress and anxiety. Even a short trip can reduce stress!
If your budget is tight the winter offers better rates for hotels and Airbnb’s. Even just planning to visit out-of-town friends or family is enough to help relieve some of the winter blues. Get something on your February calendar that you can look forward to. The anticipation will help spark some joy during these slow and cold months.
3. Boost Your Vitamins
The lack of sunshine and extra time spent indoors can deplete the vitamins required to keep us in good spirits. Adding Vitamin D to your regime can help combat the lack of sunshine that comes with the short days of winter. The added bonus is that Vitamin D has been proven to benefit our bodies in so many ways.
Consult a medical professional to find out which supplements offer the best support for your mood. Some that have been connected to better mental health include magnesium, St. John’s Wort, Vitamin B, Zinc, and Omega 3’s. Even exploring medications that help combat anxiety and depression can be a powerful way to help push back the darkness that can creep in over the winter months.
4. Commit to Reading, Prayer, and Meditation
Research supports what believers already know, committing to spending time in reading, prayer, and meditation reduces your risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. The holiday craziness can distract us from spending time in the presence of the Lord. As we get back to our normal routines, we need to prioritize our spiritual life.
Our church spends 21 days of January committed to a season of prayer and fasting. This is my favorite way to begin the new year. It’s a way to tithe some of our time to the Lord and it helps us to really commit to seeking God’s will for our lives as we step into a new season of life.
Why not begin your winter by fasting something in order to make space for prayer and meditation! You could commit to reading and studying with your family in the evenings at bedtime. The early mornings offer a wonderful space for you to meet with the Lord before the day starts chasing after you.
5. Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet
God created whole foods to be filled with nutrients that are created to boost our health! Removing processed foods from your diet helps to remove things that drag down your mind and body. Simple swaps can go a long way! Swap out your crackers for nuts. A nutrient-dense smoothie in the morning is an easy way to nourish your body with fruits and vegetables in a delicious way. Start small and don’t get overwhelmed by overhauling your whole diet at once.
In research by Cosette Yu, it was discovered that whole foods and plant-based diets can be beneficial for the management of depression. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet incorporating lots of whole foods has been found to be associated with reduced odds of experiencing depressive episodes. The connection between our gut and our mind is one that we cannot ignore. Nurturing our stomachs has a huge impact on our mental well-being.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” God gives us peace, even in the darkest of times. When we lean into him and trust that he is who he says he is, we can experience an unshakeable peace in our lives.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.