As the popular winter song says, "Oh the weather outside is frightful!" For many people the short days, overcast skies, and cold temperatures not only mean more time indoors but a significant change in their mood as well. In fact, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a widely accepted name for a form of depression that's related to the change of seasons. The National Institute of Health estimates that nearly 6% of people will experience SAD, while 14% of people experience a milder form of SAD, often called the "winter blues." In addition to medical care, there are several healthy ways to ward off the winter blues.
Live in the Light
With less sun to bask in, you might be craving those golden rays. Make a point to sit near windows during the day, get outside, and open those blinds and curtains! Scientists also recommend getting sunlight first thing in the morning, ideally within the first hour of waking up. Some people also find relief by spending time in front of a light box which mimics outside light.
It can be hard to get motivated to bundle up and head outdoors in the winter, but it's a great anecdote for the blues. Even one short walk a day can help relieve stress and improve your health. Physical activity activates chemicals in your body that improve mood and anxiety.
Schedule Being Social
The trademark of human beings is that we're social creatures. If we're not careful, winter can start to feel isolating. Don't let too much time go by between your social activities. Plan a game night, visit friends, or host a dinner party. Get out there and have some fun!
Be a Lifelong Learner
Exercise your brain and tackle something new during the long winter months. This gives you something to look forward to and keeps the mind sharp. Learn an instrument, play a new card game, or try your hand at painting. You can also boost the social benefit by joining a group or club!
Food is Medicine
There's wisdom in the old saying, "You are what you eat." In the winter months, it's especially important to introduce healthy mood-boosting foods. For starters:
- Squash which is high in magnesium and potassium.
- Sweet potatoes that are full of vitamin B6, biotin, and anti-inflammatory agents.
- Turmeric which helps calm stress pathways.
- Salmon is packed with energy-boosting omega-3 fatty acids
- Bananas help keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Asparagus is one of the best sources of plant-based sources of serotonin creating agents.
Do You Experience These Symptoms?
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems sleeping
- Changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
- Thoughts of death or suicide
It's important to be aware of the severe symptoms that may accompany SAD or the winter blues. It's important to reach out for medical help if you experience these symptoms.