The mornings are dark, and so are the early afternoons. During winter, your daily routine can start to feel oppressive, and we begin to feel sluggish. It’s reasonable that our mood changes with the seasons, with around 14% of the adult U.S. population suffering from a lesser form of seasonal mood disorder, which is aptly named “winter blues.” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is said to affect around 10 million Americans, making leaving the comfort of their beds even harder during the long winter months.
The lack of Vitamin D and sunshine, coupled with more disordered eating habits during the holidays, can further your lack of motivation and energy and overall level of productiveness.
So, how can you stay productive, even during these cold winter months? We take a closer look at how the season affects your productivity levels and what you can do about it.
How Does Winter Affect Productivity?
You may think that cold weather decreases overall motivation and productivity, but more up to date studies are showing that this is only partially true. Results from recent research hypothesized that good weather can be more distracting, as you are thinking of all the things you could be doing on a beautiful summer day instead of being stuck inside, which distracts you from work.
You’re probably thinking right now that if that’s true, why do you want to stay snuggled on your couch with a warm drink and binge-watching Netflix all winter long? That’s because assumptions about lousy weather decreasing productivity aren’t entirely wrong. As previously mentioned, our minds and bodies are habitually affected by the seasonal weather changes.
Daylight Savings Time is meant to help make better use of daylight and help conserve energy, and since there is less sunlight during winter months, we are more compelled to hibernate and naturally feel more tired. This decrease in our energy levels is also a significant contributor to a lessening desire to remain active.
With less sun also comes less Vitamin D, which can result in tiredness and fatigue, a weakened immune system jeopardizing your healing and resistance, overall joint and back pain due to an inability to absorb calcium, higher risk of mood disorders, decreased activity, high blood pressure and a reduction in nerve growth, leading to chronic pain.
When all of these things are combined, your lack of productivity and energy along with a lack of confidence can negatively influence your work. Therefore, it’s essential that you care for yourself during this period so that you can stay productive during the winter. If you are not taking care of your body and mind, it’s unlikely that any outside sources will make you want to be – or stay – productive.
Read on for some tips on staying productive while winter rages on.
Let The Light In
When natural light is scarce, our circadian rhythms are unbalanced, causing disruptions in mood and sleep patterns. Lights therapy is recommended for treating seasonal depression, so it can be a good idea to invest in a light box that simulates the rays of the sun.
Another good thing to look into purchasing is a daylight desk lamp, as working in dimly lit environments has been linked to adverse physical and emotional symptoms, including headaches, lethargy, irritability, and poor concentration. You can increase your productivity by as much as 20% by increasing the brightness levels in your workspace.
Get Your Heart Pumping and Your Blood Flowing
If you can gather enough strength and energy to go out jogging during the cold winter days, then by all means. However, if you’re like the rest of us and the thought of braving the weather leaves you cold, why not try a treadmill desk?
Walking for a few hours during your workday can mean you burn up to 1600 calories a day, leaving you feeling more energized and feeling more productive. Exercise floods your body with self-confidence and feel-good endorphins, changing your brain chemistry, and improving your memory and thinking skills.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking multiple short breaks during the day will mean you get a double dose of natural light and movement. Get creative and walk while making a conference call, walk to your nearest coffee shop to get your caffeine fix while staying active or just drink some water without staring at your screen.
Taking a break every hour or so will mean you perform better at your work, as your brain gets numb to constant stimulation after a while, and we are unable to treat the task at hand as necessary. Taking a break will allow you to come back to the project with a renewed sense of purpose and increased energy.
When the weather outside is miserable, it’s natural to want to reach for comfort foods and sugary snacks. Unhealthy foods may provide temporary comfort, but they will leave you tired and bloated, with decreased energy and productivity levels.
Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance and what you eat will affect your productivity. Skipping breakfast or being hungry can make you less productive than when you are satiated.
To make sure you eat healthily, a good rule of thumb is to decide what you are going to eat before you’re hungry. For example, make your lunch the day before or decide where you’re going for lunch after breakfast. We’re better at resisting unhealthy decisions in the future than we are in the present.
Another good habit is to graze on healthy snacks throughout the day so that you won’t have drops and spikes in blood sugar during the day. More frequent and smaller meals maintain your glucose at more consistent levels. To make sure your snacks are healthy, place a selection of protein bars or almonds near your computer to avoid going for a pack of chips.
Take Afternoon Naps
There are many benefits to napping, and our bodies are naturally designed to have a short nap in the afternoons. Our internal body clocks help to regulate the sleeping process into a regular cycle, telling our body when to do certain things, like getting sleepy and going to bed.
Our body has a natural energy dip in the afternoon, around 2pm, so this is the best time to grab a quick nap. Napping for around 20 minutes will mean you have more room in your working memory for retaining new information, as sleeping will help to clear out some info you’ve picked up during the morning. Anything significant is moved to long-term memory, so your memory performance is improved after a nap.
Maintain Your Sleep Routine
Your body likes routines. Therefore, it’s crucial that you stick to specific hours for waking up and going to bed – even during the weekends! Forget your snooze alarm and avoid binge-watching shows before bed. It’s vital that your sleep routine is not altered when the days start getting shorter, so wake up at the time you’re used to, even if it’s still dark.
Your sleep quality is closely related to productivity, as our memory becomes impaired, we slow down our reaction times and find it harder to concentrate when we’re sleep deprived. Therefore, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep by using a sleep cycle watch, which will track your movements during sleep and alert you to your sleep quality.
Do you have any tips for staying productive in the winter? Share your thoughts in the comments below!