I’ve lived in sunny Arizona for a long time but I still remember the cold, dull days of the Manitoba winters I grew up in. January and February were the worst – blustery wind, frigid temperatures, slippery streets and snow banks that kept cars and people inert. It was down right depressing.
Today we know that there is science behind that depression, it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It comes on with the change in season and lingers or intensifies until the weather shifts again. It is believed that due to reduced sunlight the body’s circadian rhythm is affected. The secretion of neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin, are disrupted with light change, as well.
Mayo Clinic lists symptoms such as irritability, low energy, difficulty getting along with others, overeating and oversleeping as signs to watch for during the fall to winter season.
There are several things you can do to combat the winter blues:
Sunlight: Get as much as you can ~ even if this means standing on your front porch in the freezing cold, sunlight will help boost your serotonin level.
Exercise: Regular movement stimulates those feel-good endorphins to boost your mood. If you can’t get out of the house, put on some music and dance!
Eat well: Include food rich in omega 3 fatty acids ~ salmon, seafood, spinach, flax or chia seeds and walnuts are good sources. And if you feel decadent, eat caviar (fish roe)!
Laughter: Watch a program or movie that makes you laugh ~ laughter is proven to improve your sense of well-being.
Massage: Regular massage helps improve circulation and offers positive, therapeutic touch.
Creativity: Get out some colored crayons or pencils, play music that inspires you and lose yourself in the process of drawing, or an adult coloring book will do!
Journal: Write out your complaints and fears, your dreams and desires in a journal ~ writing about things that concern and have meaning to you is scientifically proven to help reduce stress and calm the body/mind.
Incorporate as many of these as you can into your daily life. Make a schedule and do them at specific times throughout the day. This gives you something to look forward to. A sense of purpose can help lift your mood, as well.
However, if after a few weeks of working with these things you feel that your blues are getting out of control, please see your doctor. There is no specific test for SAD, but physicians can check things like thyroid function and blood work for other issues that may be presenting as SAD, prescribe light therapy, offer medication for depression or recommend psychological help.
Make this New Year one of personal nurturance and empowerment. Don’t let the winter blues get you down. Choose to do something to help your change your mood. When you choose and then follow through on that choice, the empowerment you feel will lighten your mood, too!