Posted on October 31, 2017 by Atria Senior Living
During the colder months, many seniors experience the winter blues. Chilly temperatures, fewer sunny hours and days stuck indoors can cause serious seasonal malaise. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD — depression increased by lack of sunlight during the winter months — affects approximately 10 million Americans each year, with another 10 to 20 percent reporting milder SAD symptoms. In a Gallup survey, American adults also reported exercising less in the winter months than in summer, with only 48.8% of respondents reporting that they work out three times per week for at least 30 minutes in November (down from 54.5% in July).
These statistics show it can be a challenge to keep your mind and body healthy during the winter. But it doesn’t have to be: the steps outlined below can help you feel well physically and emotionally until spring returns.
1. Keep your home cozy.
Part lifestyle, part aesthetic, the Danish concept of hygge, or building comfortable coziness into your living space, has become popular in part because its premise is so simple: a warm home filled with pleasant things makes everyone feel better. Winter is the most hygge season of the year because staying happy and healthy requires focusing on nourishment and wholesomeness. Start practicing hygge in your living space by turning your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Spend nights in with your friends, wear large sweaters, sit near a fire and drink warm, wintery beverages like hot cocoa and mulled wine. Invest in soft slippers or socks, keep out pesky drafts by closing off unused rooms and roll blankets or door protectors under door cracks.
At Atria, residents stay warm, safe and cozy all winter, thanks to 24/7 staff. Whether they’re shoveling snow, stoking the fireplace or serving steaming mugs of hot tea, Atria employees are available around the clock to make sure everyone is comfortable, even when temperatures dip below freezing outside.
2. Treat SAD symptoms with light therapy.
If you start to feel the effects of SAD during the darker months, don’t wait for spring to feel the sun again. Instead, make your own with a light therapy box: the light in this type of box is brighter than a normal bulb and also comes in different wavelengths, mimicking the restorative properties of the sun. Sitting in front of a light therapy box for thirty minutes once a day can help your body release melatonin and improve circadian rhythm for a better, happier existence this winter.
3. Keep moving.
Atria’s Well-Being Coach, Billie Jean King, is a winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a champion for social change and equality. Her sage advice for staying happy and healthy all winter (and any time of year)? Keep moving. That’s why at Atria, we offer at least two instructor-led fitness opportunities a day including walks, tai chi, stretching yoga, dance and strength-training with weights. Physical activity is not only good for warming up the body, it can also lift your mood. According to the Harvard Health Blog, just thirty minutes of exercise each day can release natural endorphins, making you feel happier and healthier. And you don’t have to train for a marathon, either: low- to moderate-intensity exercise will do the trick.
4. Add meditation to your routine.
The same Harvard blog post suggests adding 10 minutes of meditation to your daily routine in addition to exercise. A daily check-in can keep you more in touch with your emotions, making you less likely to experience the depressing effects of SAD. If you’re unable to quiet your mind enough for meditation, try taking a gentle yoga class or downloading Headspace, a mindfulness app that can guide you through short meditations.
5. Make time for group activities.
Connecting with people isn’t just good for your soul, it has many demonstrated health and wellness benefits. As a leading innovator in promoting healthy, active lifestyles, Atria is a proud sponsor of the PBS special, Younger Next Year: The New Science of Aging with Dr. Henry Lodge. Through practical examples and real-world scenarios, nationally renowned physician Dr. Henry Lodge shares his influential findings on how physical and social engagement can actually slow down or reverse the effects of aging. According to a literature review from the University of Manitoba on older adults, social participation decreased the likelihood of anxiety and depression, lessened the risk of cognitive decline and dementia and increased length and quality of life. What’s more, winter is the perfect time for community building. Through our Engage Life® events program, Atria offers plenty of opportunities to get involved: join a book club, take an art class or volunteer at a service organization. All can expand your social network and boost your odds of staying healthy.
6. Ask someone to help monitor your winter health — and repay the favor!
You may not always be aware when your body and mind aren’t feeling well, especially when so many symptoms of SAD manifest in subtle ways — and when colder temperatures mean more time indoors. Find someone whose company you enjoy (like a family member or friend) to help monitor your winter health and spend time with you. You’ll even return the favor by spending time with your wintertime companion. People of all ages are susceptible to feeling blue during the winter.
Don’t let winter affect your mental and physical health. Enjoy it instead by taking these precautions and have a happy and safe season.