In the winter, long nights and, in many places, inclement weather make many hunger for the warm rays of summer. We’re especially prone to feel a little low post holiday season when it can feel that there’s not much to look forward to but months ahead of more cold and grey. If you’re finding that winter weather has got you feeling tired, irritable and hungry for comforting high-carb foods, you may be experiencing SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. This condition impacts roughly 4 to 6 percent of the population. Another 10 to 20 percent have mild SAD, and if you’re a woman, you’re 4-times more likely than a man to experience it. If the winter doldrums have got the best of you, consider the following activities, which may help boost your spirits until spring comes along. While these suggestions may be helpful for anyone experiencing a mild case of winter blues, if your condition is more serious or persists beyond a few days, consult a physician.
1. Simulate the sun. Experts agree that winter depression is often caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. If your city is under cloud cover for several days at time, consider a sun substitute. Light therapy, where participants sit in front of a prescribed light for a specific duration of time, can be an effective treatment for SAD. If you suspect light therapy might be helpful for you, speak with your doctor first who can help you choose a light box and suggest a duration of time.
2. Get outside anyway. When temperatures drop, motivating yourself to get outside isn’t easy, but if you do, you may experience significant benefits. Getting a few breaths of fresh air is shown to improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD and reduce stress.
3. Establish a routine. “Anyone can benefit from a morning routine, whether you have depression or not,” said Renee Garfinkel, PhD, in an article published by everydayhealth. “When you’re living with depression, establishing a morning routine may need to be more of a conscious choice. Depression can make you wonder why you should bother getting out of bed at all. Having a routine that feels automatic can give you less time to dwell in that mindset.” Make your first task something that’s easy to accomplish such as 5 minutes of stretching or drinking a glass of water. Here’s an example.
4. Kick the carbs. Recent research shows that eating refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice and sodas – may raise your risk of experiencing depression. What’s more, when we are depressed we’re more likely to reach for these comfort foods. “Luckily, the opposite also appears to be true,” according to an article in Health. “Those who ate lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dietary fiber appeared to see their risk for depression drop.”
5. Plan a vacation. Dreaming of a warm sandy beach? Make that dream a reality, and soak up some surprising benefits, by starting your vacation planning during the dead of winter. Research shows that just thinking about your next getaway can significant boost your mood.