Having grown up in sunny Southern California, one of the biggest challenges of living in New England is the long winter. While I like cold weather and love the snow, the short days with little in the way of sunlight can be a struggle. Even in February, as winter begins its gradual ascent into spring, there are still plenty of long, dark, and cold winter days ahead. 

Needless to say, as the long winter keeps its tenacious grip on us, it can do a number on our emotional state of mind, leading to the "winter blues." Seasonal affective disorder is a legitimate health concern that psychologists warn should not be ignored. In fact, healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between emotional state and our well being, with loneliness and depression garnering extra attention because of the detrimental effects they can have on our overall health.

The question is, what can a parent do to beat the winter blues? Given our vast level of responsibility, most of us don't have the time or wherewithal to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, because let's face it, our families need us. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to help reduce winter's depressive ways and maybe even avoid them altogether.

Here are some ways to help.

1. Make Time to Be With Your Family

Nobody loves you like your family, and that love is genuine and unconditional. Nothing is more comforting and reassuring than spending quality time with the people most deserving of your attention, especially when you're feeling down.

2. Eat Right

It is becoming increasingly clear that what we eat can affect our mood. Unhealthy foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar are detrimental to our physical and emotional health. Conversely, eating a healthy diet can help lift us out of our funk.

3. Spend Quality Time With Your Spouse

Quality time with your family is important, but so is time with your spouse. Put away your smartphones and make the effort to spend quality time together, whether it's just hanging out, or being intimate. With domestic bliss comes peace of mind.

4. Exercise Regularly

The link between emotional and physical health is hard to refute, for kids and adults, alike. Exercise is good for your emotional health, so make sure to get up off the couch and get your blood flowing. Being active builds self-esteem and is a great way to bond with friends and family and make new connections.

5. Don't Obsess Over Social Media

Does it ever seem like everyone you know lives a charmed life on social media? Rather than waste your time reading about how perfect their lives are, focus your time and energy on yourself and make it happen in your own life.

6. Pursue Your Interests

For me, a lot of the blues stem from having too much free time to sit around and obsess over the negatives. Nothing counters this tendency more than being active in something that interests you because it is engaging and rewarding.

7. Make Sleep a Priority

There's no question that lack of sleep will get you down. I can vouch for this from personal experience, and there is a body of scientific evidence to support it. Make sure that you and your family get enough sleep, because it's a health must.

8. Step Outside

Being cooped up in the house all day is not conducive to good moods, so get outside in the fresh air and be active, especially when the sun is out. Even when it's cold, bundling up and moving things outside will help make you feel better.

9. Reduce Screen Time

In addition to wasting enormous amounts of time, excessive screen time might actually affect the area of our brains that control our emotions. Put away your smartphone, turn off your computer and TV, and be more engaged in the world around you.

10. Don't Work So Hard

Work is a necessary part of our lives, but spending inordinate amounts of time often leads to neglecting the important things in our lives, namely our family and our health. So do your job well, but always remember why you're doing it.

How do you battle the winter blues? Share with us in the comments!

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