It’s not uncommon for people to experience a shift in their mood during the winter months. You might notice yourself feeling more lethargic, having difficulty concentrating or performing tasks, or just generally feeling more down.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder” is a mental health disorder recognized by the National Institute of Health. This is a disorder that mirrors major depression, but that has an onset with the changes of the seasons. (And usually remits during the spring months.) Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts about 6% of all Americans in a single year, which is about 20 million individuals.
However, a more common, and milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder is called “Winter Blues.” And this affects a much larger number of individuals on a yearly basis. You might not experience the intense sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and hopeless with Winter Blues as you might with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but Winter Blues can nonetheless have a big impact on your daily life.
If you notice yourself feeling down this winter, here are 5 easy ways to combat Winter Blues.
Get outside. Sunlight is a major regulator of important hormones such as serotonin (which regulates mood) and melatonin (which regulates sleep and mood). Also, sunlight has a direct effect on keeping a natural sleep-wake cycle. You might notice that you don’t feel so great, and that your sleep gets disrupted, if you spend the whole day inside. And this is because you haven’t gotten enough sunlight. Additionally, fresh air and getting out of artificial lights has a positive impact on mood. If you are in a climate where it’s difficult to get outside, purchasing a “Light Therapy Lamp” can be almost just as good as getting real sunlight.
Consider supplementing with Vitamin D. Many people don’t like the idea of taking mediation. However, research has shown that supplementing with Vitamin D, especially during the winter months, can have a positive impact on your mood. Of course, consult with your physician before starting any supplements or medications.
Exercise. Nothing is better in the winter than curling up on the couch and watching TV or reading a good book. And exercise is especially hard when it’s unwelcoming outside. But if you can find a way to workout for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, you will notice a positive effect on your mood. You might also notice positive changes in your sleep and your appetite. Which is related to…
Limit your intake of alcohol and sugars. I’m not saying you need to cut these out altogether! But limiting them can help keep you in a better mood during the winter. Alcohol is a depressant which can actually make someone who is already feeling down feel worse. And sugars have been shown to negatively impact our stress and hormone levels. Alcohol and sweets are commonly ingested during the holidays (and sometimes they are needed, depending on who you spend your holidays with). But limiting them will help you feel better this winter.
Express gratitude. This is my favorite step because expressing gratitude is so good for your mental health. During the holidays, take a few minutes to tell friends, family, colleagues, etc. what they mean to you. Research is clear that expressing gratitude is a great way to lift your mood, feel better about yourself, and feel closer to those around you. (This step can be especially difficult to do during the holidays, but that makes it all the more important).
Give these 5 steps a shot and see how they help you this winter. These should help give you the boost you need to make it to spring! If you notice your mood is not getting better, you might need to consult with a psychologist for help. At Therapy Summit, we have experience helping people who notice their mood dipping during the winter months, and who haven’t found a way to feel better on their own.