Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) is a type of depression that affects over 10 million Americans each year. Also known as the “winter blues”, the disorder describes the debilitating feelings of hopelessness and sadness that people sometimes experience during the fall or winter. Although we don’t know the cause, SAD may result from vitamin deficiencies or seasonal hormonal shifts as the body struggles to keep up with shorter periods of light during the day. Fortunately, there are a number of self-care and wellness practices that can help people manage winter depression. These tips are a good place to start.
Pay Special Attention to Your Mental Health
If you’re prone to bouts of SAD during the colder months, make sure you’re prioritizing your mental health this time of year. Your mental health is highly dependent on the health of your physical body. So, if you’re exercising less or eating too many holiday sweets, you may be compromising your brain’s ability to manage stress and control your mood. On top of this, heightened levels of stress during the holidays can contribute to increased inflammation throughout the body. This is a problem since many studies have found a link between inflammation and mental health disorders, including depression. Limiting sugar in your diet can help you minimize inflammation in the body. Research has also found that CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, can effectively reduce inflammation and help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Check out information from Remedy Review to learn about CBD and how it may benefit you this winter.
Get Natural Light Whenever Possible
According to Harvard Medical School, shorter days and less sunlight during the winter may contribute to SAD. To combat this, try to expose yourself to as much light as possible during the day. This could mean sitting near windows or skylights, increasing the lighting in your home, or making regular excursions outdoors in daylight. If you can find some sun, allowing your skin to soak it up for a bit can improve your vitamin D levels. Light therapy is an alternative way to restore your body’s natural rhythm during the winter. This typically involves sitting near a light box for a certain amount of time each day and has shown to be an effective SAD treatment for many people.
Discover Winter-Friendly Workouts
Time and time again, exercise is found to have a very positive impact on depression. Getting your body moving helps it keep your hormones balanced to stave off anxiety and depression. Additionally, exercise results in the release of happiness-boosting hormones called endorphins. Of course, exercising is much easier said than done when it’s cold and miserable outside and you’re fighting depression. Some ways you can motivate yourself to get moving include choosing an exercise that you really like and making it as easy as possible for you to get started. Work to reduce obstacles, like cold weather, that are keeping you from exercise. Try finding winter-friendly workouts that you can do indoors or using the change in weather to your advantage. For example, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating are great activities to help you maintain your fitness routine when it becomes impossible to run or bike due to the weather.
Choose the Right Foods
Although you should avoid simple carbs when you’re feeling down, there are plenty of other enjoyable foods that can actually alleviate depression. For example, dark chocolate has been found to improve mood due to its antioxidant properties. If you’re looking for snacks, reach for almonds and seeds for their mood-boosting omega-3’s or stress-fighting berries that reduce cortisol levels in the body. Everyday Health also recommends getting your blood tested for deficiencies in certain nutrients — namely folic acid, iron, vitamin B-12, magnesium, and vitamin D — which pay a key role in mood.
Don’t let seasonal affective disorder steal your winter away. Although it can be difficult to step up and take charge of your wellness habits, it’s an important part of tending to your mental health this time of year. If nothing you try seems to help alleviate your winter blues, consider talking to your doctor about additional treatment options.