Seasonal Depression: 5 Effective Ways to Conquer The Winter Blues
Inside: Seasonal Depression: 5 Effective Ways to Conquer The Winter Blues
Well, the season we’ve all been waiting for has come and gone. As we prepare to put away all our outdoor gear and store our suntan lotion until next summer, seasonal depression begins to set in. For me, the moment the cover is pulled tightly across my pool is when the reality starts to set in and so begins seasonal depression.
I dislike the cold and anyone who knows me understands this fact. If I never had to see my breath again I’d be fine. Wearing layers has never been one of my favorite things to do nor is shoveling snow (though I do like a good snowblower).
Seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression triggered by the change in seasons that occurs primarily in winter. There is no known medical reason why people suffer from SAD. Some clinicians think that the change in seasons interrupts our circadian rhythm (our natural clock that regulates our function during periods of sleep and being awake). My hypothesis, which I’m basing on my own cruel reaction to Winter, is that I hate being stuck inside and seeing the sun go down so soon in the day.
Living in New York, climate change has certainly made winter’s a bit more enjoyable as we haven’t gotten big snowstorms in a long time. Temperatures have been on the rise as well so though it gets cold it’s not normally for long extended periods of time like when I was younger. Cold is a relative term. Cold for me is the moment I can see my breath and the car takes a bit longer to start.
The change of seasons is inevitable so aside from moving to a warmer year-round climate, what can we do to avoid the seasonal depression that many people face?
Soak in the sunshine at the start of seasonal depression
Not all winter months are painstakingly freezing so get outside when you can and soak in some sunshine. Being outside in the sun has positive effects on the brain and generally puts you in a better mood. Keep your house well lit with natural light meaning open your blinds and let the sun in.
You also may want to consider the use of light therapy utilizing a lightbox that mimics natural sunshine. Try it for 30 minutes a day. A lightbox can help trigger your circadian rhythms and kick-start you. They are best if used first thing in the morning. Mine sits on my desk when winter rolls in. I start the day with coffee and my lightbox.
Every time you exercise you increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which have been shown to relieve feelings of depression.endorphins. Start your day in the gym or with your favorite at-home workout. If it’s not too cold go outside and run or take a bike ride. You don’t need hours to exercise. Start slow with 30 minutes and gradually increase over time.
I find that exercising in the morning works best for me. It allows me time to clear my head before my workday starts and it also helps wake me up. There’s nothing like throwing 200 pounds on the bench press to start your day.
Finish your routine with a cool down and stretch. Allow your body to recover from the punishment you put it through and start your day energized.
Get a routine and wake up and go to bed at the same time every day
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Many people try to sleep in on the weekends but according to sleep.org it’s best to vary your wake-up time by no more than 1 hour on the weekend. Remember that circadian rhythm that I mentioned above? It’s almost impossible to make up for lost sleep (sleep debt) so if you do wake up tired take a midday nap to help refresh you. Waking up and going to bed on a schedule will lead to better overall sleep.
Also, eat at regular intervals to stop food cravings. Many people gain weight in the winter due to lack of movement and sedentary behavior.
For more read why sleep matters.
Take vitamin D supplements
Many Americans are lacking in Vitamin-D, the sunshine vitamin. The lack of sunshine in winter months can decrease Vitamin-D levels and trigger SAD. AS part of your annual physical have your Vitamin-D levels checked and if need be look into supplements. I’ve been taking these vitamin-d gummies. They taste great and provide the recommended daily allowance and then some!
Get out of here, scram, take a hike! When you really start to feel down that’s the time to plan a vacation to someplace sunny and warm. There’s no point in vacationing in Florida during the summer when it’s hot and sunny at home. Instead go away in the heart of winter, January, or February. Put your toes in the sand and relax for a week and soak up the sunshine.
If the beach isn’t your thing there are plenty of other wonderful things to do outside in warm weather climates. Plan ahead and schedule something now for the winter. You don’t have to break the bank and fly to Hawaii or the Caribbean, but if you live in a cold-weather climate plan to head further south.
Check out the Travel Channels 20 best beaches.
I’ve been trying to convince my family for years to move to a warmer climate but I’ve yet to be successful. Until then I’ll do my best to combat my seasonal depression using the tools I’ve outlined above.
How do you avoid seasonal depression during the winter months? Comment below.