10 Ways to Get Your Butt Off the Couch This WinterBy Sarah Stevenson
It's that time of year again when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. It's often easier to stay warm and cozy in your bed than thrust yourself out into the wet cold day. However, when you stay locked inside during the winter months you can create a mild depression that some call the "winter blues." Simply pushing yourself outside may be just the trick. But sometimes we need the motivation to do so. Here are 10 ways to balance your winter self and helpful hints to get your butt off the couch this winter.
- Exercise. A brisk walk/run, a bike ride to the grocery store, or a nice long swim at your city gym will do the trick. Psychologist James Blumenthal, PhD, and colleagues at Duke University have carried out several systematic studies of patients diagnosed with major depression. They used two treatment conditions of exercise and medication. They compared patients' response to aerobic exercise only, psychotropic medication only, or a combination of the two. After 4 1/2 months of treatment, patients who received any of the treatments were significantly less depressed. About two-thirds were no longer depressed. In a follow-up study by psychologist Michael Babyak and colleagues, these same patients were contacted six months after the original study. Patients in the exercise group were more likely to be partly or fully recovered than those who were in the medication or medication plus exercise group. So suffice to say, research suggests that the more you exercise the least likely you are to sulk on your couch.
- Eat a healthy diet. What you eat can certainly affect how you feel. Attending holiday parties during the winter seasons can cause you to eat more and less healthy. Try to stay away from refined/processed foods. Sugar, rice, and white breads can steal your energy from you, causing you to feel tired and sluggish. These foods also lack nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Give your body an energy boost by consuming complex carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water (8 cups a day) and eat foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole wheat breads. These foods contain nutrients that will stabilize your blood sugar and increase your levels of energy.
- Sun exposure. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that seems to be related to the amount of daylight to which people are exposed. It's found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as "a specifier of major depression." During the winter seasons you can get the lack of vitamin D blues simply by not exposing yourself to enough sunlight. Experts suggest going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun. This will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of vitamin D. You can also eat foods high in vitamin D. Most dairy, salmon, and eggs, as well as fortified foods such as orange juice and soy milk are all high in vitamin D. Shitake mushrooms, of all things, also contain some vitamin D.
- The benefits of socializing. Friends and family are such a great resource for keeping you connected and active. Take advantage of the opportunity of socializing with loved ones during the winter months. Going to parties, meeting up for a hot cup of coffee or catching a movie with a friend are all great ways to keep you from getting lonesome. Maybe even be courageous and join a meet-up group where you can connect with people of similar interest.
- Commit to follow through with resolutions. New Years is a time when we all decide what needs to go and what can stay. It’s typically a time when we all make a long list of "shoulds" that we rarely follow through with. Studies show that only one in five people follow through with resolutions for longer than a 2-year period. The reason being is that the more stressful life becomes the harder it is to follow through with resolutions. In a study posted in the Journal of Consumer Research, subjects were asked to complete a challenging mental task, memorizing a seven-digit number, while others were asked to remember only two digits. When the same subjects were later given a choice between eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake or a healthy fruit salad, those who had memorized seven digits were more likely to choose the cake, suggesting their brains were too fatigued to curb the desire for instant gratification. So when it comes to following through with your New Year's resolutions make sure you are setting reasonable goals and also living a balanced lifestyle that will allow you to achieve those goals.
- Celebrate the season. One great thing about this time of year is there are plenty of opportunities for you to get off your butt. How about picking up a new winter sport like ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding or ice skating? Take advantage of the season. It only is here for a little while. Just because the holiday season is over, doesn't mean you can spend the rest of winter as a Grinch. After all, the fire is so frightful but the weather is so delightful . . . or something like that.
- Find a workout buddy. Having trouble sticking to your workout? Find a partner who can keep you motivated and accountable. On days you are stuck to the couch maybe they can inspire you to take a jog and visa versa. Sometimes two heads are really better than one. According to the "Kohler Effect" people tend to have more success in achieving goals if they have a workout partner who challenges them. So when picking a workout buddy, make sure it is someone who can really motivate you to achieve or surpass your goals. On days you are stuck to the couch maybe they can inspire you to take a jog and visa versa. In this case, two heads are really better than one.
- Get proper amounts of rest. How is resting going to get your butt off the couch this winter? Well let me tell you. Due to our natural circadian rhythms of synching with our environment, in the wintertime we require more sleep because there is less sunlight. Make sure you are getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to avoid waking up exhausted. Synching your waking time with the rising of the sun will give you the most benefits of lining up with your environment. Also make sure that you are relaxing and slowing down once the sun sets. You will be surprised how much energy you have to face your day once you RISE AND SHINE!
- Vow to take on a new adventure each week. Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do one thing every day that scares you." Now you don’t actually have to thrust yourself out of a plane in order to get your butt off the couch this winter. There is however, something to be said about going out and trying new things. For example, learning how to samba could expand your horizons on many levels. You are getting your heart rate up, you are meeting new people and you are making yourself a tad bit more interesting. There is a great movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman called The Bucket List. It's about two men who are at the end of their lives and decide to make the best of their last days. I think they are really on to something. So why wait 'til you're at the end of your life to start your adventure? Make a list today and start checking it off week by week. You will find your life is a lot less monotonous and a whole lot more fun.
- Control your thoughts. I'm not going to get "New Agey" on you, but I do believe that when you control your thoughts you change your world. Cognitive behavioral psychologists believe that thoughts occur first, then they lead to particular emotions that, in turn, elicit a behavior. In a study to examine the effects of both positive and negative self-talk on sports performance, Dagrou, Gauvin, and Halliwell (1992) had undergraduate students attempt dart throws, randomly assigned them to self-talk conditions, then had them complete another group of dart throws. Results indicated that subjects who were asked to verbalize positive self-talk performed significantly better on the next group of dart throws than controlled-condition subjects, who performed significantly better than subjects who were asked to verbalize negative self-talk. Dagrou concluded that self-talk influences sports performance such that positive self-talk is associated with better performance than negative self-talk. You can control your thoughts in many ways. Positive affirmation, music, books, seminars, and the people you surround yourself with. Keep the content that surrounds you upbeat and positive. When your thoughts are positive you are more likely to get off your butt and into the big beautiful world.
It sometimes takes a little more effort during the winter months to motivate yourself. But I'm convinced it is attainable. Putting a conscious effort toward your health and happiness is a must. If you follow these easy steps you may just have a blast getting off your butt this winter.
- Babyak, M. A., Blumenthal, J. A., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Doraiswamy, P. M., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Baldewicz, T. T., & Krishnan, K. R. (2000). Exercise treatment for major depression: Maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 62. pp. 633-638.
- Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M.A., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Waugh, R., Napolitano, M. A., Forman, L. M., Appelbaum, M., Doraiswamy, P. M., & Krishnan, K. R. (1999). Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 159 pp. 2349-2356.
- North, T. C., P. McCullagh, and Z. V. Tran. (1990). Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews Vol. 18 pp. 379-415.
- Beauchemin, K. M. & Hays, P. (1996) Sunny hospital rooms expedite recovery from severe and refractory depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 40, 49-51.
- Lam, R. W. (1998) Seasonal affective disorder: diagnosis and management. Primary Care Psychiatry, 4, 63-74.
- Shiv, Baba & Fedorikhin, Alexander, 1999. Heart and Mind in Conflict: The Interplay of Affect and Cognition in Consumer Decision Making, Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 278-92, December.
- Hertel, Guido; Kerr, Norbert L; Messe, Lawrence A. Revisiting the Kohler effect: Does diversity enhance motivation and performance in groups? Psychologische Beiträge. Pabst Science Publishers Title Acct. 1999. HighBeam Research. 14 Dec. 2011 http://www.highbeam.com.
- Cork! the Effects of Positive and Negative Self-Talk on Dart Throwing Performance. Judy L. Van Raalte, Britton W. Brewer, Brian P. Lewis, Darwyn E. Linder, Gregg Wildman, Johnathon Kozimor; Journal of Sport Behavior, Vol. 18, 1995.
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@TeamBeachbody.com.