Mental Health

7 Ways to Beat Winter Blues

winter blues seasonal affective disorder SAD Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Do short days and chilly breezes leave you huddled in bed, praying for spring? Maybe you lack energy and even run into work, school, and family problems. You could have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Roughly 5% of the adult population gets a full-blown case of SAD each year. However, others experience symptoms without ever receiving a diagnosis. Consider this your quick guide to SAD. Here are seven ways to manage the winter blues.

A Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

Why We Get the Winter Blues: What Causes SAD?

Several factors explain SAD, although the disorder remains somewhat mysterious. Researchers once believed that less exposure to sunlight causes the issue. That’s certainly one factor spurring holistic light-therapy treatments that many find highly effective in treating the disorder.

Recent research suggests serotonin may also play a role. This neurotransmitter regulates your mood and most people produce less of it in winter as a natural adaptation against increased environmental change. However, people with SAD don’t reduce production, rendering them vulnerable to fluctuations that affect their outlook.

Melatonin is a vital sleep hormone that also contributes to SAD. Your body produces more during the short winter days and those with an overabundance might experience the debilitating fatigue and desire to stay in bed associated with the condition.

Finally, your body produces less vitamin D during the winter months. This hormone influences serotonin production. It may play more of a role in the disorder than researchers currently understand, given that some people experience SAD during the summer. Perhaps too much exposure to vitamin D-producing sunlight causes an imbalance in their serotonin levels.

winter blues

7 Ways to Manage the Winter Blues

What can you do if you suspect you have SAD or experience symptoms of the disorder? Fortunately, you can manage your condition through natural, holistic treatments and professional interventions. Here are seven ways to manage the winter blues.

1. Let There Be Light

Since decreased exposure to sunlight may influence SAD symptoms, adding more light into your days might seem like the perfect natural remedy. For many, it is. Some people need to do little more than get outdoors more often.

However, others need a stronger boost. Fortunately, you can find therapy lamps that emulate the sun’s rays. Better yet, these devices are available over the counter, with no prescription necessary. Luxury models can cost upwards of $400, but you can find less-pricey models for under $50 that also do the trick.

2. Get Moving

winter blues seasonal affective disorder SAD

Exercise is perhaps the best natural antidepressant in the world. It produces juicy endorphins, which are natural feel-good body chemicals that act like opioids to boost your mood and deaden pain without adverse side effects.

The problem? Depression saps your energy levels, making it challenging to get to the gym. The solution? Make movement easier on yourself.

Equip your house with the gear you need to work out. You can find many popular fitness apps for less than $20 a month featuring various fitness styles and activity lengths. Resistance bands and jump ropes cost little and slide under your couch for storage. Exercising at home means not bundling up and trudging through ice and snow to get to the gym.

Make fitness easier psychologically with this trick: promise yourself you’ll only exercise for 10 minutes. After that time, permit yourself to stop – it might help to do so once or twice to convince yourself it’s okay. The magic happens once those endorphins start flowing and you discover that you have the energy to power through the rest of your workout.

3. Modify Your Diet

Depression can make you crave sugary, fatty, starchy convenience foods that add unwanted inches to your waistline. Feeling bad about your appearance only exacerbates your symptoms. Instead, try to avoid processed junk as much as possible. Opt for whole foods close to their natural form.

Nuts and seeds are particularly beneficial to add to your diet. They contain high levels of magnesium, selenium, and zinc – three minerals vital for healthy neurological functioning. Some magnesium-deficient individuals recover faster on a supplement alone than from a tricyclic antidepressant, and you get even better benefits when you consume these nutrients through food.

4. Connect With Loved Ones

winter blues seasonal affective disorder SAD

Any depression, SAD included, can make you want to isolate yourself. Please, resist this urge. The love of your friends and family is some of your best medicine.

If you get down because you don’t have many family members to connect with over the holidays, look for alternative ways to feel connected with your community. Food kitchens typically have plenty of holiday volunteers, but they can always use more, especially in the days leading up to the holidays. Performing acts of kindness prompts your brain to release all kinds of feel-good neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.

5. Talk to Your Doctor

Please don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about a referral for psychological help. Your brain is an organ like any other. If you had a problem with your kidneys or spleen that a pill could address, you’d pop it without question – there’s no shame in taking an antidepressant if your psychiatrist recommends it.

6. Celebrate Hygge

winter blues seasonal affective disorder SAD

What is “hygge?” It’s a Danish word representing a state of cozy contentment. Visualize sipping a mug of hot chocolate and reading a novel while you and your cat laze by the fireplace.

Adopt this attitude of gratitude to combat your winter blues. Instead of looking at the season as something to dread and “push through,” find joy in the little delights. You can’t wear your favorite ugly sweater in July and you’d have a heck of a time arranging a snowball fight followed by

7. Talk to Your Employer

The Great Resignation gave working folks a bit more pull with their employers. Even those who previously denied flextime and telecommuting requests are now more open to the idea, thanks to facing staffing shortages if they don’t.

If you leave for work in the dark and come home the same way, why not talk to your employer about solutions? If you must be onsite, could a split shift with a two- to three-hour break in the middle of the day give you time to go out and enjoy the actual daylight? If you can telecommute, can you plan a mid-morning break that lets you go outside and treat your condition with exposure to healthy sun rays?

building a pillow fort in your living room.

Your Guide to SAD: Manage Winter Blues

winter blues seasonal affective disorder SAD Quote

Seasonal affective disorder affects a considerable portion of the population. Please don’t spend another season in the dumps if you are among the ranks.

Instead, take charge of your condition with this guide to SAD and use the seven tips above to manage your winter blues. You may never consider January your favorite month, but you can make it more bearable and fun.

Author bio:

Beth Ruth

Beth is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to fitness, holistic health, nutrition, and disease prevention. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and cooking healthy recipes.

National Institute of Health: Beat the Winter Blues

Healthy Children: Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

CNN Health: Fight Winter Blues by Changing Your Mindset

National Health Institute U.K.: Overview – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)National Institute of Mental Health: What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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