Each year, the festive and busy winter holidays quickly give way to long cold nights and often, gray days. Winter in the Northeast can be tough for even the heartiest among us, but it can be even tougher for the elderly. It’s especially difficult for those with mobility issues and those living in senior care facilities. The reduced daylight and fewer visits from friends and loved ones can lead to feelings of isolation, limited motivation and even depression.
The good news is that there are many ways to beat the winter blues. Try one or more of the suggestions below to help improve your mood and your attitude.
1. Get moving!
Regular exercise releases chemicals in the brain linked to your sense of well-being, reducing anxiety and improving your overall mood. According to the American Psychological Association, the effects can be felt just five minutes after participating in moderate exercise. In addition to being good for your muscles and heart, helping with balance, blood pressure and weight control, physical activity also can help lower the risk of depression.
For those who are able, a routine at a local gym maybe be a good way to get started. If you don’t have a gym membership and it’s too blustery outside for a walk, consider leveraging today’s technology. Exercise videos can be watched for free on YouTube, and there are several fitness apps available on your mobile phone or smart device. As always, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise.
2. Take up a hobby.
It’s probably not a coincidence that January is National Hobby Month! Whether the excitement of the new year motivates you to try a new pastime, or you’re just looking for something to keep you busy indoors, there’s a hobby to match every interest. Jigsaw puzzles, word find challenges and sudoku can help to keep your mind sharp. Adult coloring books, origami, painting, model building, knitting, crocheting and embroidery all are relaxing hobbies, and relatively inexpensive to start.
For other creative options, look for adult education classes offered in your area. Consider workshops at a local craft store or cooking classes at a nearby supermarket.
3. Get together.
Don’t let the weather get you down. Grab your coat and go out with family or friends for nice lunch, shopping, bowling, a card game, or just a cup of coffee – anything can be an excuse for a friendly gathering. For those living in a senior care community, this may be the right time to try a new activity offered by the staff or grab some of your neighbors to watch a favorite program or movie together.
4. Be social.
If you’re comfortable with the idea, tap into social media. Facebook is a popular way for friends and family to keep in touch, but there are also numerous Facebook groups that focus on specialized interests. Whether you enjoy a particular author or TV show, or more obscure hobbies like Roman architecture, Colonial-era cooking or flower arranging, social media groups create an environment where you can share photos and ideas with other people around the globe who have similar interests.
5. Learn something new.
Today’s technology can broaden your horizons and help alleviate feelings of boredom and loneliness. If you’ve always wanted to delve into a particular field of knowledge, now might be the time to enroll in an online course. Many well-known educational institutions offer web-based learning options through EdX, Coursera and other services. You can audit some courses free of charge, at your own time and pace. Explore topics presented by universities across the country and the world without leaving your living room!
If your learning pursuits are more casual, the internet offers countless videos that present new ideas and support a positive outlook. Your favorite top chef, comedian or sports figure has probably filmed a YouTube video. Browse through inspirational and amusing Ted Talks – or search a topic that interests you.
6. Explore the fine arts.
Visit a museum, enjoy a concert, attend a theatrical performance. Find out if your town offers historic talks or tours. It doesn’t matter if you go alone or with friends; you’ll be surrounded by others who share your interests. Most public libraries also offer lectures and exhibits around art and history topics. Many of the events are free of charge and information can be found on your nearest library’s website.
Giving your time to help someone can be very rewarding and fulfilling, and volunteering is a great way to stay active and engaged in your local community. You can volunteer at a church or nearby school, or follow your interests. Become a docent at a science museum or historical landmark or help at your local hospital or food pantry. Skilled nursing and assisted living facilities are always seeking volunteers to help with different activities or to spend time with residents. There are plenty of organizations that will welcome your donation of time and talents. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the Volunteer Match website, where you can search for volunteer opportunities available in your local area.
While winter can seem long and dark, some new activities can brighten your days and help you to stay busy. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing the signs of Spring!