As days get shorter and nights longer, the early dark tends to zap energy and blow in the air that turns everyone into a sloth. If you experience elongated laziness, loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities, changes in appetite or constant fatigue, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — also known as winter blues.
This form of depression is often triggered by changes in weather and daylight that occur primarily in winter. While experts cannot identify why some people experience it, the logical reasoning is the hormonal change due to changing weather, such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well-being.
The weather may try to put your spirits down, it is very possible to keep up a competition. Compiled from Everyday Health magazine, here are five ideas that can help you fight winter blues.
1. Light from a box
Feeling sleepy at 5 pm and cannot get out of bed? Or can’t wake up after a long night of sleep? Look no further, all you need is some exposure to bright light. Phototherapy is a common treatment that often mimics sunlight and helps manage SAD. While we do have ample sunlight during the day, it’s recommended to use high-end torches that light significantly sharper than regular light bulbs. The light from the therapy boxes is significantly brighter than that of regular light bulbs and is provided in different wavelengths.
Sitting in front of the lightbox for about 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day will boost your mood and alleviate symptoms of SAD, according to a Mayo Clinic report.
2. Prioritise social activities
The first-line treatment for SAD is setting a routine and avoiding social isolation. Being proactive by scheduling social activities like walks in the park or some physical movement, group game nights, or frequent lunches outside with friends will help fight seasonal depression.
Since we know the season causes depressive symptoms, it’s better to start prioritising social life to prevent the symptoms from disturbing your normal routine.
Aromatherapy — the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes — may also help those with SAD. It is known to help lessen symptoms of depression and other psychological issues like anxiety and sleep problems. However, creating an environment of warmth and comfort around also helps.
While air diffusers might be out of budget, lighting up a scented candle, using a room freshener or bathing in essential oils, will also contribute to better sleep and regulated mood with its soothing effect.
4. Keep a journal
Nothing helps more than talking out loud about what bothers you, but talking about this can be hard at times too. However, you can write down your negative and positive thoughts to feel better. Journaling often works by helping you prioritise life’s problems and identify your depression triggers, as well as what helps lift your mood. Include your thoughts, feelings, and concerns when you journal. A good time to do so is at night so that you can reflect on all that happened in the last 24 hours.
5. Bathe in sunshine
A major trigger for wintertime SAD is lack of vitamin D or exposure to sunlight. Get outside as much as you can during the day to take advantage of what sunlight there is. While indoors, open all windows to let in as much natural light as possible. Indoor lighting is usually dimmer than natural light, and this can negatively affect SAD symptoms.
However, your diet may be affecting your SAD symptoms. Incorporate vitamin D rich foods into your diet along with getting enough sunlight and you’re set for an active winter this year.
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I was happy to see that you mentioned the need for sunlight to fight winter blues. Winter or summer we need to get plenty of non-burning sunlight daily. Even if it is cold outside the sunlight will enter the eyes and reset the circadian rhythms. Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light. To do this they drew blood samples from the internal jugular veins of 101 men and compared the serotonin concentration of the blood to weather conditions and seasons. The results were remarkable Men measured on a very bright day produced eight times more serotonin than those who measured on a cloudy dismal day. They also observed that the effect of bright light was immediate and that there was no holdover from day to day. There we have the answer to mood or SAD. It is also a good reason to leave the cave. When the sun is shining winter or summer wherever you are take advantage of it. It will elevate your mood and make you feel more alive. More information sunlightinstitute.org and read the book Embrace the Sun.