Winter blues and seasonal depression—winter can be SAD. Don’t let it get you down!
For many, once those long days of summer and warmth are over and the sun starts making only weekly appearances (if you’re lucky), winter can be downright miserable. Learn how to spot the winter blues and turn them into winter awesomeness!
Happy New Year! … Is it summer yet? We’re counting down to long lake days, too.
It does make sense that with reduced levels of sunlight, daylight savings, and colder temps, our internal clocks are trying to make sense of what’s going on (to those in Arizona, we envy you with your year-round warmer temps and no Daylight Savings Time).
What is Seasonal Depression?
Some researchers believe that the shorter days and lack of sunlight (vitamin D, please!) may cause a drop in serotonin for some people, especially the further from the equator you live. Serotonin, for those who may not know, is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood, and you might notice the effects of lower levels of this important mood booster.
A quick correlation between shorter days, less light, and decreased mood-boosting levels and you can easily see where the “winter blues” or other winter-related depression might come into play, like seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression.
What to watch for
Here are some common symptoms among people who struggle to stay positive during the winter months (although we all might feel it or see it differently):
- Changes in sleeping patterns. This can look different to everyone. Maybe you’re unable to stay asleep, or you find it difficult to fall asleep. Maybe you can’t drag yourself out of bed in the morning. Or, maybe you notice each of these at different times.
- Increased overall sleep. Darkness makes us tired. When it gets dark at 3:30 p.m., it makes sense why we tend to get more Zzzs in the winter, which can cause us all to feel a little more sluggish.
- Mood changes and lack of interest in the things you usually find fun or enjoyable.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Lack of motivation and loss of energy. Again, it’s dark and you’re tired, so you may lose the drive to do stuff.
- Craving carbohydrates that can lead to weight gain, which might also lead to all of these things listed above.
Winter blues to winter awesomeness
Here are some ways to help get us all through these shorter and darker winter days:
- Make winter and cold as comfortable as possible. You might love wearing flip flops and t-shirts, but if it’s raining or snowing, make sure you’ve got the gear to stay warm and dry. Nothing says awful like wet socks or not enough layers.
- Nature fixes everything. Well, maybe not everything. But, it can fix a lot. Get outside and see some green! Noon is the brightest time of the day this time of year. Vitamin D deficiency is real, and some researchers believe that your body is best at making vitamin D around noon each day. This might mean that if you go outside around noon to get your daily sun-dose, you could need less time in the sun for your body to make more!
- Having difficulty catching up and getting ahead of the cold? Try a hot bath. It’s a quick fix, but sometimes it’s just a great idea.
- If you can’t get outside, many people find solace in light therapy boxes (also known as sad lamps). They can mimic outside light when there isn’t any (hooray!), and many believe they might help alleviate some of the symptoms of being stuck inside all winter. Here’s Amazon’s Choice and some more information about light therapy boxes (sad lamps, if you prefer)!
- Make a date—with yourself, a friend, a loved one, anyone! Being social is important so we don’t dive too far down the rabbit hole! Make a plan to leave the house and stick to it—don’t give in to the desire to be a hermit during winter (or any time really).
- Meditate, visualize, whatever you want to call it, about someplace warm. Bora Bora, beaches, teal-blue ocean, humid jungles. Spend 5 minutes making a tropical inspiration board on Pinterest or listening to ocean sounds.
- Move your body. Like everything else, exercise can help you break out of the rut and boost those serotonin levels! The more you move, the better you’ll feel. Go for a walk, rent some snowshoes, hit the gym, do jumping jacks in your living room—find something you can do and do it!
- Talk through your feelings with someone and try not to keep them bottled up. This goes for any time of the year … communicating your thoughts and feelings to someone outside yourself can really help you feel known. This is a good thing.
Whether you’re struggling with the “winter blues,” a bad day (Self-Care Tips for Bad Days) , or a more severe form of SAD (of which you should DEFINITELY talk to your doctor about any of your concerns), spring is on its way!
What’s your favorite season and why? Share with us in the comments below!