Ways to beat the winter blahs

Reduce stress and boost endorphins this season without stepping on a treadmill.
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An infrared sauna can offer an experience similar to sunbathing. Photo courtesy of SWET.

You hear it all the time: “The way to maintain your mental state is through regular exercise.” But Old Man Winter can really put a damper on that. The lack of sunlight and feeling “cooped up” can lead to a case of the blahs. Some people suffer from a type of depression known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the wintertime. If you believe you have SAD, seek help from a medical professional.

Not everyone who’s feeling a bit down because it’s been a month since they’ve seen the sun and haven’t been on their daily walk since November is suffering from SAD.

Self-care and staying active are the two main ways to wipe away the winter woes. Here are our suggestions:

Self Care

Light therapy
Light therapy is a nebulous term. It could mean anything from spending more time outside to dedicating a part of you day to basking in artificial light. Rearranging
the furniture in your house so that you can spend time sitting in sunlight streaming through a window can help, but light boxes are designed to deliver a therapeutic dose of bright light. According to Mayo Clinic, a light therapy box “mimics” outdoor light. Ask a healthcare professional if a light box is right for you.

Massage
According to the National Institute of Health, massage increases the secretion of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin and reduces the levels of stress hormones, which can reduce anxiety, fatigue, stress, and physical and mental strain. WEB MD takes it a step further stating that a hot stone massage may provide additional benefi. For a hot stone massage, try Benji Salon on Lake Michigan Drive, Woodhouse Spa or Simple Wellness.

Saunas and Steam Rooms
Spending time in sauna or steam room can “improve circulation, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, clear congestion, promote skin health, aid in workout recovery, loosen stiff joints, burn calories, boost your immune system, and remove toxins,” according to a YMCA website.

It can also help reduce the production of cortisol, a hormone that is associated with anxiety and help improve your mood by releasing endorphins and help reduce the symptoms of depression by increasing the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with happiness and well-being.

The results of a University of Eastern Finland study showed frequent visits to a sauna were associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Talk to a doctor before adding something new to your healthcare routine. Locally, check out SWET Infrared Sauna Studio, Wanderlux Salon & Spa on Wealthy Street, MVP Fitness and the YMCA.

Activities

Bowling
Here’s a fun fact: According to Mayo Clinic, one hour of bowling can burn anywhere from 219 to 327 calories. In comparison, that’s more calories burned than walking two miles in one hour. Bowling requires short bursts of energy and allows people of all ages to interact with friends and family, reducing stress.

Ice Skating (indoors and out)
If you grew up in Michigan, chances are you’ve at least donned a pair of skates at some point in your life. It’s a fun way to get exercise and a great way to enjoy the company of family and friends. If you’re not adverse to the frigid temps, then put “visiting Rosa Parks Circle” on your Winter 2024 list. Indoor skating options in Grand Rapids are plentiful also, clocking in at eight rinks.

Pickleball
This outdoor sport that’s sweeping the nation is quickly becoming an indoor sensation. One can find indoor pickleball courts at area churches, schools, several
MVP Fitness centers, YMCAs and at All In Pickleball Gym, 400 76th St SW; The Byron Township Community Center, 2120 76th Street SW; GR Racquet & Fitness, 4940 Plainfield Ave NE; The Kentwood Activities Center, 355 48th Street; and MSA Fieldhouse located at 5435 28th St. Court SE.

The major take-away?

Do things that make you feel better. Going to a movie, gardening (obviously, indoor potted plants), or taking part in social, religious, or other group activities may help. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better. A lot of other people
are going through the doldrums right now, too. You just might make someone’s day!

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