Counteracting the Winter Blues

Spirit

When winter’s chilly temperatures force you to break out your heavy winter parka and disappearing sunlight guarantees a dark commute home, it might feel like someone hit the dimmer switch on your happiness. In fact, about 15 million people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.

SAD has a wide range of symptoms, including heightened carb cravings, unwanted weight gain, an overwhelming need to sleep and negative thoughts and feelings.

Don’t let the winter blues keep you down. Try these natural mood-elevating strategies to help keep your summer spirit long after the sun disappears:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise classes like Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help relieve stress and anxiety, which can worsen SAD symptoms. As little as 20 minutes of heart-pumping aerobic activity will help reduce stress, and improve your mood, for up to 12 hours.
     
  • Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open your blinds and trim tree branches that block sunlight. Try sitting close to bright windows while you’re home or at the office.
     
  • Make time to socialize. Friends and family can offer support, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, or a good joke to give you a boost. Enhancing your support network will only help you feel more energized and more connected, which are great for combatting SAD symptoms.
     
  • Be conscious of your eating habits. Refined carbohydrates, like starches and sugars, can create dramatic swings in your blood sugar, making you feel fatigued, headachy and irritable. Instead, go for complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, veggies and fruits.

    You should also make sure you get enough vitamin D. A diet rich in fatty fish such as salmon, eggs and fortified foods can be very beneficial in helping you reach an adequate intake of vitamin D.

    Consume enough omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that people who consume more omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to suffer from depression. Try to eat more oily fish like salmon and mackerel. Plant sources such as flax, canola and walnuts are also good.
     
  • Consider trying light therapy. Light therapy can be used on its own or in combination with one or more of the previously mentioned tips. Light therapy boxes emit artificial light to help compensate for a lack of sunlight. Simply sit in front of the box for 30 to 45 minutes each day.