SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression triggered by the change of seasons that affects roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults. However, even if you aren’t officially diagnosed with SAD, it’s common to feel down after trudging through wind, ice, sleet and cold for months. Here are six tips from Barbara Nosal, PhD, chief clinical officer at Newport Academy, for overcoming “Seasonal Affective Disorder” and the winter blues.
1| Get the blood pumping
Exercise is important, we all know that. Apart from all the obvious benefits, staying active can also help you avoid the winter blues. Exercise, according to Dr. Nosal, increases serotonin, which plays a role in mood, social behaviour, sleep, appetite, and memory, all of which contribute to a balanced mind and body.
2| Freshen up the air in your house
Essential oils can be a powerful tool for perking up, whether you roll them on your wrists or diffuse them with water vapor. Not sure which one to use? You can use different oils for different purposes. As Dr. Nosal explains, citrus-y oils energize, whereas lavender-scented oils calm and soothe.
3| Blinds up
According to Dr. Nosal, spending time outdoors helps regulate hormones and neurotransmitters that have strong effects on mood, behaviour, and our bodies’ natural rhythms. It’s cool, but not very useful when it’s freezing and all you want to do is stay in bed. Luckily, you can reap the benefits of sunlight by allowing natural light to fill your living and working space. Therefore, before you sprint to the kitchen in the morning to make coffee, open all the curtains and blinds.
4| …Or use fake light
Consider investing in a light therapy box which emits light similar to natural sunlight on cloudy days. It “naturally stimulates the body’s circadian rhythms and suppresses the release of melatonin.” According to Dr. Nosal, natural light exposure for about 30 minutes a day has been found to be beneficial for those suffering from SAD.
5| Seek out a therapist
Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, involves coming up with solutions for problems through brainstorming. It’s less about preventing winter blues from happening than it is about learning how to cope with the symptoms. “CBT helps people identify and change the negative thoughts and behaviours that contribute to feelings of depression,” says Dr. Nosal. SAD symptoms can be alleviated by learning healthy coping skills for stress management.
6| Don’t forget to do what you love
It might seem like a no-brainer, but in the dead of winter, it is very tempting to stay home and veg out. Dr. Nosal’s research has found that spending time with friends or keeping up with hobbies can satisfy “an intellectual, creative or social need, as well as build self-esteem and self-confidence – preventing or lessening SAD symptoms. ” So, basically, don’t cave into that overwhelming urge to hibernate until spring.