For seniors facing this particularly unique season, the winter doldrums may seem inevitable. Although the pandemic is still present, days are shorter and temperatures are cooler, there are still proven ways to combat seasonal melancholy. Whether it’s for you or an older loved one, try these eight tips and tricks for beating the winter blues for seniors.
1. Scratch Your Creative Itch
Winter is the perfect time to pick up a creative new hobby. Not only is the arts and crafts market booming (so you have plenty of options to choose from), but it’s also beneficial for cognitive function. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, take up calligraphy or practice making the perfect cupcake—now’s your chance!
Learning a new skill can create new neural connections in your brain while strengthening the old ones, which is extremely valuable for senior cognitive health. Focusing on a fun activity outside your comfort zone can also relieve anxiety. To get started, check out this list of easy and stress-relieving hobbies.
2. Practice Meditation
If you feel like you see suggestions for meditation everywhere, there’s a good reason. A meditation and mindfulness practice helps relax your mind, body and soul. With so many things out of your control and a seemingly endless to-do list, meditating allows you to focus on the current moment and your breath.
Studies also show that mediation has a myriad of health and wellness benefits, from reducing chronic pain to alleviating depression. The more you struggle with the winter doldrums, the more reason to tune inward and help control your sad and anxious mind. Get started with just a five-minute daily session. Apps like Calm or Insight Timer offer free guided meditations which many beginners find easier than simply sitting quietly on your own.
3. Schedule Time to Move
When the weather’s cold and days are short, it’s tempting to want to curl up on the couch and not leave. However, exercise—in any form—is healthy for your brain and body and boosts your mood as well. The good news is, you don’t have to go out and speed-walk a half marathon. Just moving thirty minutes a day, three times a week, is enough to make a noticeable difference when it comes to beating the winter blues for seniors.
Our suggested exercises are perfect for those with limited agility due to injuries or medical conditions.
4. Cue Up A Favorite Film
When all else fails in beating the winter doldrums, throw on an old favorite film—bonus points if it makes you laugh. The more reminiscent of your childhood or happier years, the better. Focusing on pleasant memories and utilizing the power of nostalgia, particularly as you age, is a mood booster. Harness some healthy escapism this winter season with a trip down memory lane.
5. Turn Off the News
Let’s face it, at the moment, many (if not most) segments on cable news are full of doom and gloom. Although it’s important to stay informed, the constant onslaught of negative stories is not mentally healthy, particularly if you already struggle with staying positive during winter. If it’s stressing you out, take a break. Put down the newspaper, exit the news apps and most importantly, limit social media use. The human brain is primed to react to negativity. As such, limiting the stimulus that puts your mind in a state of stress will significantly improve your overall mood and outlook.
If you want to keep up-to-date, give yourself a designated time of day to listen, read or watch the news—then choose other activities from this list to fill the rest of your day.
6. Learn to Use a Virtual Communication Platform
Not knowing when you’ll be able to see and hug your loved ones is distressing. As a stopgap, master one of the many virtual communication platforms (i.e., Skype, Zoom, Facetime), so you can at least see each others’ faces. Spending quality time together, even while miles apart, is a proven mood booster. For seniors struggling with technology, this might seem daunting at first. Fortunately, there are many resources available to remedy this. For example, check out this beginner’s guide.
For first-timers, don’t be afraid to ask for help getting started. If you have an older loved one, reach out with a phone call first and offer to walk them through the process.
7. Bake a Treat
Believe in the power of comfort food! Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of sweetness and a dash of nostalgia. When you find yourself getting down in the winter doldrums, choose a recipe and start baking. By committing to a task and completing it, your brain will release the “reward chemical” dopamine and continue to release it even while you eat your treats afterward.
Baking recipes that bring back fond memories also stimulates your brain in a healing manner. Use this list for inspiration to find simple recipes. Baking and eating cookies are a win, win in winter 2021!
8. Ask For Help If You Need It
Even with all of these tips, you may experience a slump you can’t climb out of. It’s crucial to pay attention to the distinction between having one bad day and struggling mentally. It can mean the difference between the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If it all seems too much, reach out for help. You don’t have to physically be present in a doctor’s office, there are many great telehealth options available, particularly for seniors.
Avoid the Winter Doldrums
Remember that you or your elderly loved ones are not in this alone. Another quarantine winter isn’t what anyone wanted, but this time around, we’re at least better equipped to face it. Beating the winter blues for seniors doesn’t have to be impossible! You can make it through with a smile on your face. Follow these guidelines and remember that small steps make the biggest difference.