The winter blues are very real. Officially known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (how appropriate), it is a type of depression that tends to start in the fall and go through the winter and causes the sufferer to feel drained of energy and temperamental. The symptoms usually dissipate when the sunny days of spring and summer arrive.
Typical symptoms of SAD include:
- Low Energy
- Problems with Sleep (both insomnia and oversleeping)
- Feelings of depression most days, sluggishness,and agitation
- Loss of interest in things or activities youpreviously enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating
No one really knows why SAD occurs although there is some thought that it is related to disruptions to your biological clock, serotonin levels, and/or melatonin levels. You can see a doctor for official diagnosis and there are a few things a doctor can prescribe to help you. However, there are a number of things you can do at home that can help relieve the symptoms and keep you feeling happy and healthy.
Get More Sun
When indoors, open the shades, sit near windows when indoors, and do whatever else you can to allow more sunlight into your environment. And, of course, you can always get outside. Sunlight provides a boost of vitamin D and causes your brain to release serotonin, considered the feel-good hormone, which helps to reduce depression and anxiety. People with good levels of serotonin tend to feel happier, more focused, and more emotionally stable.
Besides getting more sun, going outside allows you to breath fresh air, get in a little exercise, and escape the possibly stuffy confines of being indoors. Take a walk, go on a picnic, or check your local paper or meetup groups for outdoor activities that may be happening.
Exercise can help manage, reduce, and even prevent depression. Even 10 minutes can boost your mood. For the best benefits, aim for 30 minutes and, if you can, try to do some of it outside in the sun in order to combat SAD further.
Create a Cozy Environment
Being cold can make you feel more depressed and there is nothing worse, in my opinion, than sitting in a cold room staring out the window at a cold environment. Make your area as cozy as possible. Use warm colors, light some candles, light afire in the fireplace, soft lighting, etc. Then curl up on the couch with a blanket, a good book, and a hot beverage.
Start a New Hobby/Learn Something New
It’s hard to be too depressed (from something like SAD) when your mind is occupied with learning something new or participating in a hobby. Is there something you have always wanted to learn? Or a hobby you have always wanted to try? During the winter months we tend to be cooped up indoors for extended periods of time. It’s the perfect time to learn something new. For some ideas on what you might want to learn this year, check out ???
For serious cases of SAD, look into light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a light box that mimics daylight for about 30 minutes a day. It has shown to be effective on people with symptoms from SAD and is one of the recommended therapies by doctors. However, buying a good light box can be pricey so I would think about this option seriously, and perhaps try other options, before deciding.
In the end, just know that SAD will pass. Get enough light, a little exercise, and try to look forward to something in the future like a vacation or just warmer weather. All these things will help you battle the winter blues and get your through to the next season.