This morning I spoke to a friend of mine up north who said it was 39* and they were expecting snow this weekend. WHAT?! In April!? Down here in Florida we are trying not to melt! If you’re suffering from a bout of the winter blues, a lack of sunshine is probably to blame. It is thought that seasonal depression is brought on by the short, dark days of winter, which cause changes in levels of melatonin (the “sleep hormone”) in the body and leave sufferers feeling irritable, irritable, and depressed.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to escape to a warm, sunny beach during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you have to let seasonal depression sap your energy and dampen your mood. Whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder — a form of depression that begins in early winter and lasts until spring — or you just feel out of sorts, there are a lot of ways to beat the winter blues. Here are a few proven ways to stay positive and productive as the gloomy days of winter set in.
Start a New Hobby
Winter is the perfect time to take up indoor gardening or sign up for that weekly art class at the local college. Starting a new hobby doesn’t have to break the bank. A free download such as this mandala coloring book app will occupy your hands and mind as you wait for spring to arrive.
Staying connected with family and friends is one of the best ways to stave off the winter blahs. Avoid the temptation to isolate yourself during the long winter months. Try volunteering for a local charity or joining a book club. If you can’t bear to venture out into the cold, invite your friends over for a movie night.
A 2005 study found that walking briskly for 35 minutes five times a week or for 60 minutes three times per week reduced symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Another study found that exercising in bright light was even better for reducing symptoms of SAD. Regular exercise is also known to boost endorphins and serotonin levels, leading to a better mood. There are many ways to stay active without going outside. Join a yoga class, try indoor rock climbing, or use a workout DVD at home. A brisk morning walk around the neighborhood can get your blood circulating and elevate your mood.
Make Your Own Sunshine
People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can have trouble waking up in the morning when it’s still dark outside. If you can’t get up without hitting the snooze button repeatedly, a dawn simulator can make getting out of bed easier. Studies show that the device, which gradually brightens your bedroom lights over a pre-determined period of time, creates a naturalistic dawn effect and acts as an antidepressant. Another way to brighten up your winter days is to invest in a light box. Studies show that sitting close to the artificial light emitted from a light box for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as taking antidepressant medication.
If the above tips don’t help you shake off the winter doldrums, it may be time to see your doctor. You should also speak with your doctor if you experience trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Many treatments are available that can help improve your mood, reduce symptoms of seasonal depression, and lower your overall stress levels.