Wellness: Top 3 Ways to Maximize Winter Wellness at Work

winter trees

Winter is here and with it come colder days and more time spent indoors. Many people start to feel down as they adjust to shorter, darker days. Arriving at and leaving from work in the dark doesn’t help. It’s no wonder winter months pull down your mood and impact healthy practices. But being indoors in close quarters means winter is a time to pay special attention to wellness at work.

Read on to discover three ways you can maximize your wellness in the workplace this winter.

1. Be mindful of mood

winter moodWhat happens in winter?

When winter arrives, it’s common to feel lethargic, tired, and downright sad. We even have a name for it – the winter blues. Approximately 5 percent of North Americans experience a more severe version of the blues — Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Scientists haven’t confirmed the exact cause of the winter blues and SAD, but it’s believed there are three main contributing factors:

  1. The reduced amount of sunlight in winter can affect a person’s “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, which can lead to moodiness and depression.
  2. Less sunlight exposure also creates a dip in serotonin, the natural, mood-lifting neurotransmitter produced in the brain, increasing feelings of sadness and, in some cases, depression.
  3. Increased amounts of melatonin, a natural hormone, caused by reduced exposure to sunlight is thought to further contribute to the winter blues and SAD.

What can I do?winter sunlight

You’ve probably noticed all three factors have something in common — exposure to sunlight. To combat the onset of the winter blues, be sure to increase time in the sun as much as possible. Consider taking brisk walking breaks around the office building — the added exercise helps boost serotonin production to lift your mood. To maximize time in the sun, bundle up and move outdoors or to a sunny room for meals and snacks. Or spend part of your workday in a space with plenty of windows and daylight to increase the amount of sunlight you receive each day.

By maximizing the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to, you’ll maximize your winter wellness at work. In fact, a recent study from Cornell University found workers in offices with optimal natural light reported an 82 percent increase in perceived daylight quality, resulting in decreased fatigue and increased productivity.

2. Drink more water

winter radiator dry heatWhat happens in winter?

Cooler temperatures in winter months mean we wear more layers to keep warm. At the same time, we crank up the indoor heat. The drier air and warmer temperatures mean your body is using more water than your think. The result? Winter dehydration. You’re used to drinking water in summer months when heat and sweat signal your body that you need water. But during the winter, it’s harder to notice that you’re probably not drinking as much water as you should. Water is especially important in winter given the number of airborne viruses prevalent in the cooler months. Lack of water makes you less resistant to infection, making it easier for pesky viruses to take hold.

What can I do?

It can be hard to drink as much water as you should at work. Meetings and deadlines distract you from keeping track of water intake, making hydrating a hassle. Turn water intake into a healthy habit instead with these quick tricks:

  1. Keep a dedicated drinking glass or bottle on your desk.
    Having water at hand — where you can see it — helps you remember to take sips throughout the day. Clear bottles and glasses can serve as visual reminders for how much you’ve sipped (or not sipped!) as the day progresses.
  2. Boost flavor with simple and healthy additions in your glass.
    If plain water is too boring, add a squeeze of lemon, a few slices of orange or cucumber, mint leaves, diced strawberries, kiwis… virtually any fruit or veggie you enjoy. They’ll make it fun to sneak in sips.
  3. Create a hydration challenge.
    A little competition with coworkers can go a long way! As everyone tries to hydrate, the added accountability and sense of camaraderie will help boost fluid intake and beat away winter bugs.
  4. Take advantage of technology.
    Why not make the most of technology to help you stay hydrated? Set an alarm on your phone or calendar to remind you throughout the day to drink water or refill your glass. Or consider using a hydration app to help you track water intake and alert you when water consumption is low.

3. Manage stress

winter work stressWhat happens in winter?

Just as reduced daylight in winter is linked to the blues and seasonal affective disorder, it’s linked to increased feelings of stress. In addition, with the new year come new work projects, tasks, and deadlines. Many people find it hard to keep up with regular stress outlets, like sports, hiking, and physical activities. As a result, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated at work.

What can I do?

A multi-tiered approach to stress management is best. Improving your diet, establishing boundaries, and seeking support from a supervisor can help. In addition, here are three simple – but important! – practices you can implement today to help take a bite out of your workday stress:

  1. Be more active.
    Physical activity in the winter can be a challenge, but activity doesn’t have to be complicated. Boost your winter workday activity level by stretching at your desk every hour. Take the long route to meetings, and try walking a lap or two around the building before or after lunch to sneak in extra steps.
  2. Follow a regular sleep pattern.
    Everyone knows getting at least six to seven hours of sleep each night is important for your health. But with busy schedules and stressors from work, it can be hard to fall asleep at night. To make following a regular sleep pattern easier, try increasing your exposure to sunlight during the day. By sitting near windows that let in natural light, you’ll boost daytime alertness and improve evening sleep.
  3. Use blue light strategically.
    Feeling overwhelmed, tired, and overworked can make you feel stressed. A study found office workers exposed to blue light experienced reduced drowsiness during the day, increased alertness, attention, and reaction times, and better sleep at night. All of these can help you feel more productive and less stressed.
  4. Take mental breaks throughout the day.
    You don’t have to meditate for hours to give your mind a rest. Simple strategies, like a 10-minute journaling break, spending time chatting with coworkers and work friends about life outside work, and laughing for a few minutes at a funny meme or video all give you a much-needed break from looming projects and deadlines. Something as simple as pausing to enjoy the view from an office window can make a difference. In fact, access to windows and natural light were recently rated the top office perk!