Beat the Winter Blues
The Winter Blues are a real thing. And it's not your fault.
We've been lucky with pretty mild weather for our little corner of the world this season. But it seems like with the end of the holiday season, after the glow of the New Year parties has faded, many of us sink into a bit of a blue lagoon. And not the warm, tropical kind. How do you get out of it, if you can't change the weather, and you can't just hop on a plane to warmer climes?
They definitely happen to me, despite really working on positivity lately. (And not that toxic positivity kind where we just pretend nothing bad exists 😆 ) For many, winter blues are unavoidable - and it's nothing personal!
According to recent studies, up to 10 million people (in the US alone) suffer from seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The hallmarks of Seasonal Affective Disorder (abbreviated to S.A.D. - how apropos) are some of the things I hear clients mention often, and even more in the winter months! Some of the common complaints are excessive tiredness and lack of motivation; low self-confidence or low self-esteem; negative self-talk; craving sweets, sugars and processed carbohydrates; and unexpected weight gain. I'm not a doctor, and can;t diagnose any conditions - but I help people address their common complaints all the time, using methods that don't involve anything you'd need a prescription for. Sometimes lifestyle changes can be even more effective than medication use!
We've come to normalize them in our culture, and even joke about it. But it really isn't funny to feel this way, and it doesn't HAVE to be your normal. Read on for a few tips to help turn things in a positive direction...
Get More Sunshine
Our bodies naturally synthesize Vitamin D using sunlight absorbed through the skin, and if you're feeling blue, getting more sunshine can help. Serotonin and dopamine are two happy hormones that are produced with the support of Vitamin D. It can be a challenge to get enough natural Vitamin D during the short days of Winter in much of the world, but if you see the sun shining, especially early in the morning, try to get at least 10 minutes of bright light on your face. I'm not talking about going out and trying to get a sunburn tomorrow. But a few minutes of direct sun can give you a natural boost!
When it's been a few days without sun (like we happen to be experiencing now in dreary PA) a full spectrum light therapy device can help! It's generally suggested to use it 20-30 minutes per day, but follow the manufacturers instructions. (If you have any eye problems or medical conditions, consult your physician before using)
Move Your Body
Probably the last thing you want to do, when two of the most common characteristics are "excessive sleepiness" and "lack of motivation," But if you can give yourself a pep talk and get moving for just a few minutes each day, it can set off a reaction in your body! Exercise releases endorphins which provide natural pain relief, and promote feelings of positivity and happiness.
While it's recommended that we get 150 total minutes of moderate activity per week (average of about 30 minutes per day) if you haven't been active in a while, you can ramp your way up to that. Just 15 minutes per day can have a positive effect, and once you've started making it part of your routine, you can look forward to those endorphin boosting benefits regularly!
Just Eat It
Weird Al said it best - Just eat it. Food is the fuel that can either keep our bodies running, or send us into a slump. So be mindful of what you're eating and how it affects your mood. As we already know, one of the signs of SAD is cravings for sweets and processed carbohydrates. But not all sweets are created equal. And you can still enjoy a treat without getting the dreaded crash and burn after!
Did you know that eating chocolate and spicy foods both trigger our body to release endorphins?! Try this recipe for chocolate nut and seed bark - a tasty treat with antioxidants, fiber, and brain-boosting fatty acids. Try adding a dash of cayenne pepper to the mix before it hardens and you'll get a double boost!
Some of the best foods for improving mood are fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, because they feed your microbiome and encourage the growth of beneficial microflora- that are responsible for sending happy chemical messengers to your brain.
Get it Together
Being around other people could be helpful, even (and especially) when you don't necessarily want to head out of the comfort of your own space. Studies have shown that laughter, and being around other people in general, can actually increase endorphin and dopamine levels! Especially when you are engaged in a shared interest, which has added benefits, you'll get maximum benefits. Encourage friends and family to check in with each other, initiate plans, or even set up a regular time and place to get together. It can make a world of difference in your mood- and those you love!
Whats more, with a little chemical called pheromones, we send out tiny signals to those around us. And when we're happy, we send out different pheromones than when we're not. Ever notice how there's a certain vibe in a room when everyone is in a good mood? eing in the presence of those who are in feeling happy or content can actually boost your own happiness!
These are just a few tips to help alleviate some of the less serious symptoms of seasonal depression. Often, if it is a mild case, some people may be inclined to just deal with it, rather than seeking professional help. But since it often goes hand in hand with more serious instances of depression or bipolar disorder, I encourage you not to ignore it.
You are the only one who can decide if it's necessary to seek professional help, but I urge you to reach out if you find that you are unable to manage your day to day life with ease. A great resource to find help in your area is www.psychologytoday.com
No matter if you are working with a professional or not to help with your S.A.D, or something more serious, making lifestyle changes that support your wellness can only help.
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