Today I have for a you a guest post from Jennifer Scott. She did a fabulous job of writing about the winter blues and I’m excited to share it!
Jennifer Scott has been experiencing anxiety and depression since she was a teen. She shares her journey toward improved mental health on her website, SpiritFinder.org. When she isn’t blogging, Jennifer loves to travel, volunteers at her local animal shelter, and rock climbs.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects about nine million people. Even people without symptoms severe enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis may find that they have less energy or tend to feel more depressed during the winter months.
Causes range from lower levels of Vitamin D (which your body produces when exposed to sunlight) to changes in our behavior or dietary habits during the cold winter months. No matter the cause, there are many ways to help combat the winter blues and maintain your sunny attitude – even when it’s not sunny outside:
Stick to a Healthy Diet
During winter, we have a tendency to crave comfort foods. Never does a heaping helping of mac ‘n’ cheese sound better than when there’s snow on the ground and we’re stuck inside. But making healthy food choices can help to boost your mood, as foods like candy and carbohydrates can increase feelings of anxiety and depression (despite the initial euphoria they sometimes create). Loading up on fruits and veggies may not seem as appealing, but these healthy substitutes will pay off by making you feel a lot better.
Maintain Healthy Levels of Physical Activity
It’s easy to get up early with the sun and exercise regularly when it’s warm outside and the sun is shining brightly. But when it’s bitter cold outside, the last thing you probably want to do is venture out for a run. Still, maintaining healthy exercise routines is important for beating the winter blues. If you can get outside, the sun will benefit your mood even when it’s not accompanied by 80-degree weather. Otherwise, take things indoors. Hit up your local gym or take advantage of the benefits of aquatic therapy (which, as this guide notes, is especially great for recovering addicts with SAD). Diving in well help boost your mood and is a great source of relief for chronic pain that may be worsened by cold, wet weather.
Spend Time with a Furry Friend
According to research from the University of Missouri–Columbia, petting a dog for just 15 minutes releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, all positive hormones that help you feel good, while reducing the stress hormone cortisol. And if you’re a cat person, not to worry. Petting a cat will offer similar benefits.
Take Vitamin Supplements
It’s often a good idea to take a multi-vitamin all year long, but it’s especially important to supplement your diet with vitamins such as Vitamin D, which your body will have less of due to the decreased daylight hours during the winter. Of course, it’s important to consult with your physician before taking any supplements so that you can ensure you’re not at risk of any medication interactions or other risks to your health.
Try Light Therapy
About 70 percent of patients with SAD experience results from light therapy, or sitting in front of a light box (which produces much more light than ordinary sources of indoor artificial lighting) for 30 minutes or more each morning. After a few weeks of treatment, many patients experience relief from SAD symptoms. For patients with SAD who don’t have success with light therapy, anti-depressants may provide symptomatic relief.
Treat Yourself to a Getaway
Sometimes beating the winter blues is as simple as a break in routine. What could be better than a quick weekend getaway to a warm, tropical climate during the coldest, dreariest months of winter? Not only will a trip to a warmer location give you a chance to soak up some mood-boosting sunshine, but getting away from the same-old routine at home is often a welcome reprieve during the winter months. And if you can’t get away bring those warm vibes to you. Host a tropical-themed party so that you and your friends can leave the gray days of winter behind, even if it’s only for one evening.
Many people experience a shift in mood during the winter months. While not everyone has symptoms severe enough to be clinically classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder, these tips and tricks can help anyone relieve the winter blues.