depression, winter blues, seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder

How to Cope With the Winter Blues

With winter here in full swing, it’s easy to get weighed down by the “winter blues”. But what causes us to feel down in the winter months? What you are calling the “winter blues” may actually be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression. SAD is most often caused by the change in sunlight with longer nights and shorter days, which disrupts your body’s internal clock. Circadian rhythms regulate the human body’s sleep, mood, and appetite. As sunlight hours decrease, the cycle can be disrupted, causing grogginess, irritability, and sleepiness.

SAD can also manifest itself with the following symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem or feeling depressed
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Weight changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Feelings of anger, stress, or anxiety

For those suffering from SAD, there are steps that you can take each day to uplift your mood and increase your feelings of hope and positivity.

Get moving everyday.

Making sure you’re moving can do a large amount to combat seasonal depression. Even if you start small, exercise can boost the positive chemicals in your brain to improve self esteem and lift your mood. In fact, exercising can in some cases be just as effective as antidepressant medication. Try to get in at least 30 minutes a day of exercise. That can be as simple as taking a walk with a friend!

Food and Mood: Eat right and your body will thank you.

As tempting as it is to give into those sugar cravings when you’re feeling down, learning what food can help or hurt your mood is very important to combating seasonal depression. Not only can avoiding those trans fats and sugars improve your mood, it will also improve your overall health, boosting your self-esteem. Omega-3 fats, such as fish oils, are also very effective at helping to boost your mood. Ice cream may sound comforting now, but healthy eating will help you feel happier later.

Socialize (even when it’s hard).

When people feel depressed, it’s tempting to avoid contact with others. However, interaction with others can build a feeling of support and belonging, boost self-esteem, and help individuals to build positive relationships. You can start simple, with an email or call to a friend, or have a weekly lunch date with someone you trust. Even caring for a pet gives you a chance to feel support as well as give support, which can do even more for your mood.

Let sunlight “lighten” your mood.

Because of the decreased amount of sunlight, take every opportunity to soak up the sun. Go for walks, sit outside, and open up drapes so natural sunlight can shine in. Getting that extra sunlight will be able to combat seasonal depression and bring more balance to the body’s internal clock. If your natural sunlight intake is lacking, light boxes and dawn simulators can also sometimes  be used to give the body simulated sunlight.

Find time to enjoy being you.

Even if you find things less enjoyable than you used to, don’t let that stop you from taking time to have fun. Push yourself to get involved in things that you like, and you will oftentimes discover that this helps to lessen stress, feel more energetic, and enjoy what makes you who you are. Take time to let loose, laugh, and enjoy the day.

Come here for more more ideas on how to combat seasonal depression. Do what you can to improve your mood, and seek outside help when needed. The “Winter Blues” don’t have to keep you in a rut every winter.

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