If the winter blues or seasonal depression (known as SAD) have you feeling down this year, there are various strategies available to you that may help manage symptoms and feel better. It is important to remember that they are two separate conditions.
SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a more severe form of depression that can impact your daily life, with symptoms that interfere with it being caused by biochemical changes occurring within the brain due to shorter daylight hours and less sunshine during winter.
1. Get Outdoors
If winter blues have you feeling blue, there are steps you can take to improve your mood. First and foremost, ensure you are getting enough sunlight.
When suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can cause depression in the fall and winter when days get shorter and darker. SAD affects an estimated 1-2% of the population and its effects may range from mild to severe.
One of the hallmarks of SAD is low energy and appetite decrease, often leading to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and irritability.
Winter can make it tempting to stay inside, which can increase feelings of depression. According to University of Iowa wellness experts, however, getting out and moving around is vitally important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Exercise outdoors can not only benefit your physical health, but can also boost your mood and reduce stress. A systematic data review conducted in 2011 demonstrated that outdoor exercises led to greater feelings of rejuvenation and positive engagement; decreased tension, anger, depression, as well as increased energy.
One effective strategy to combat SAD is taking a daily walk during midday in direct sunlight if possible; even short walks have proven helpful.
Active living can improve mental health by raising serotonin levels. Furthermore, socializing and meeting new people will help ease winter blues.
Remind yourself that being outdoors doesn’t just benefit those living in snowy environments – in fact, it can provide much-needed vitamin D!
2. Stay Active
Becoming physically active can help keep you healthy and enhance your mental wellbeing. Exercise provides an ideal opportunity to connect with both body and mind, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality and manage depression or anxiety.
With your busy schedule, finding time for exercise may seem impossible. Yet even just 5 or 10 minutes per day of physical activity will make a significant impactful change on your health and wellness.
Staying active will also boost your mood and give you energy to combat winter blues. Staying active is especially essential if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or depression associated with winter months.
Stay active throughout your day – be it watching television or working at your computer – by standing up every 30 minutes or so and walking around, whether for leisure or work-related purposes. Pace while speaking on a call or holding standing meetings to add extra movement into your day.
A daily walk can also help combat seasonal affective disorder and winter blues. Take time out of your lunch hour or commute instead via bicycle or on foot – just making small steps toward improving mental wellbeing can have dramatic results!
An escape to warmer climes may also help alleviate SAD symptoms. “Changing up the scenery and weather conditions can really boost one’s spirits and improve their outlook,” according to Kalayjian.
If you are suffering from SAD, discuss ways with your physician on how best to manage it. Treatment may include medication or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or perhaps both approaches combined.
Staying connected to friends and family during this season can also help boost your spirits, reduce stress, and maintain motivation to continue onward. Spending time with loved ones can have many positive benefits on both physical and mental wellbeing.
3. Eat Healthy
One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost your mood and feel better is through eating healthily. Achieve optimal wellness requires eating an array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods and dairy products as part of a well-rounded diet containing no added salts or sugars.
Staying at a healthy weight is also key to remaining happy and well during winter, according to studies that demonstrate its effects. Eating well may reduce your risk of depression.
Foods rich in vitamins and minerals such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and soy alternatives may help keep both mind and body strong. Such nutrients may assist your body in producing serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and calm.
But if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, it may be beneficial to speak to a healthcare provider. A primary care doctor can screen for seasonal affective disorder and other mental health conditions as well as refer you to mental health specialists for additional support.
Another effective strategy for treating seasonal affective disorder is getting sufficient sunlight. Winter’s shorter days and darker skies cause your body to produce less vitamin D – an essential nutrient necessary for producing melatonin hormone that aids sleep.
Sunlight can help you feel more energised and focused, improve sleep quality and promote serotonin production.
If you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, using a light therapy box or artificial lighting to get more exposure to sunlight may help. Furthermore, taking vitamin D supplements may also provide assistance.
When treating seasonal affective disorder, speaking to your physician is the most effective form of therapy. They will help find the appropriate medications and ensure you adhere to them.
4. Stay Connected
Winter blues and the shorter days can have an especially profound effect on people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), an episodic form of depression that typically starts in fall and continues through winter months.
If you’re experiencing SAD, speak to your physician for help in managing it. They may suggest medications, light therapy, psychotherapy or another solution.
Keep a strong bond with friends and family. Staying connected can improve both your physical health and energy level, which are essential components to living a fulfilling life.
Find ways of socializing that fit your schedule, interests and priorities during winter months. Be it face-to-face conversations or group chats – find something enjoyable and fulfilling to do. Whether it’s trying out something new, such as taking up a hobby, or getting more involved with community service efforts; socializing can help ease away winter blues!
Start developing relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation or self-hypnosis to ease anxiety.
These techniques can help to relax both body and mind and improve sleep quality, as well as help focus and reduce stress levels, leading to an overall greater feeling of energy and positivity.
Staying social during winter is another effective way to prevent feeling isolated, whether that means hanging out at a park, playing board games or walking the neighborhood when warm enough.
Staying social can be challenging in winter months, so Dr. Burgess advises finding creative ways to keep in touch. She suggests talking with family or friends via the phone, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or Twitter; joining clubs or volunteering in your community are also viable ways of staying social.
5. Seek Help
If you find yourself feeling particularly listless and lethargic, this could be more serious than simply experiencing “winter blues.” For your own wellbeing it is wise to seek advice from health care providers before your symptoms worsen and cause other problems in life.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of seasonal depression that typically manifests itself over a limited timeframe, but can become more intense during winter months. While difficult to identify, GPs can perform an assessment which examines your mood and lifestyle to diagnose this form of depression.
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and also ask about your sleeping and waking patterns as well as any noticeable shifts in thoughts or behavior. If SAD is suspected, therapy treatments can be recommended to help restore you back to feeling like yourself again.
Your therapist can also assist in identifying any triggers contributing to feelings of depression, as well as teach effective ways of managing them. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Light therapy is another viable treatment option that uses sunlight to alter your biochemistry and ease depressive symptoms naturally. It is an ideal way to combat seasonal changes that come with shorter and darker winter days.
If light therapy or medication aren’t right for you, a therapist can offer other types of counseling and therapy to help improve your condition. Talk therapy has proven particularly successful at alleviating symptoms associated with SAD while increasing quality of life.
Therapists often prove more successful at treating anxiety than medications alone. While certain therapists specialize in SAD specifically, others can help any mood disorder sufferer. No matter which approach is taken, it is essential that communication remains open between you and the therapist in order to develop a personalized plan tailored just for you.