How to Beat the Winter Blues
Article Written By: Judy Rooney, LCSW, Certified Mindset & Habit Coach, Behavioral Health, Tri-State Clearwater Medical
Winter in the Lewis-Clark Valley has arrived, and the colder, darker months, can bring not only the snow, but also the “winter blues”, seasonal mood changes. Did you know that about 20 percent of the population may be experiencing the “winter blues”? Research shows that women and young people are more likely to experience seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a form of depression that is triggered by the change in daylight and weather.
Signs and symptoms can typically include:
- Feelings of low mood/depression for most of the day, every day, in a seasonal pattern
- Having tiredness and/or low energy
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Changes in appetite or weight gain
- Sleeping too much; increased sleepiness
If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, it is important to address them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about your mood changes or depression. Each person should have the ability to enjoy their life, time with their families, and their daily work.
Try some of the at home strategies below to help lift your spirits and help keep you happy all winter long:
- Enjoy the outdoors and experience nature – Nature does wonders for the mood, not to mention improving your sleep. Fresh air and nature are great for shaking the blues.
- Take Vitamin D (or at the very least a multi-vitamin) – Taking vitamins may help with the lack of sunshine this time of year, as well as your bones.
- Exercise – Exercising can be so energizing, even just 15 minutes a day, can boost your mood.
- Connect with others – Connecting with others can sometimes help to lift our spirits. Try linking-up with people who support you, this can help with feelings of loneliness and isolation and also to improve your mental health.
- Use a “happy light” – A happy light is a light from a box, for “light therapy” to replace the natural light that is shortened by the winter solstice. A decrease in sunlight can disrupt your circadian rhythms, and cause a drop in serotonin levels, contributing to depressive symptoms.
- Avoid overloading on carbs and “comfort foods” – Focus on a balanced diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies, with whole grains, protein and fiber to boost your energy, mood, and overall health.
- Maintain a routine and sleep schedule – You may want to stay in your warm bed when that alarm goes off, but resist. Stick to your wake-up time and bed time routines for weekdays and It’s important to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Use aromatherapy – Scents can provide a sense of calm and well-being. Try peppermint or lavender essential oil, or any energizing scent in a diffuser, candle, or room spray.
- Journal – Nurture your spirit, use this “down time” for reflection, spiritual growth, or a gratitude practice. It does wonders for the soul.
- Start a project – Do something for yourself that you have been meaning to do; take up a new hobby, learn a foreign language, refinish some furniture, paint… the list is endless. This project will help re-energize you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Take a vacation; Plan a visit to a warmer, sunnier climate, a visit with family or friends, or even visit a place that lets you enjoy the snow. It’s good to have something to look forward to and to have fun!