There’s a reason the phrase “winter is coming” strikes more fear in the heart than, say, “spring is coming” (and it’s not just its association with a certain HBO show). Winter is probably the most dreaded season, and yet, from winter we derive so much beauty and magic—the sight of fresh-fallen snow blanketing the earth, twinkling holiday lights, and barren trees reminds us that before rebirth there must be a period of quiet dormancy.
But with winter we also get colder, darker months. For many, decreased daylight and forced indoor time creates a terrible burden of sadness. And people diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder are often the ones who suffer the most. This condition, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that comes with the changing of seasons and is most common in the winter. In fact, SAD is sometimes referred to as “winter depression” or “winter blues.” Causes include the disruption of both serotonin and melatonin levels, as well as to the body’s circadian rhythm. These disturbances can trigger mood changes or depression, with symptoms ranging from non-threatening to quite severe (in which case we suggest consulting a physician immediately).
You don’t have to suffer from SAD, however, to catch a case of the winter blues. Lack of light and vitamins from the sun, having to stay inside when you’d rather be playing outdoors or dining on a patio with a cold drink in hand, can take a toll on any human psyche. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true methods to coping with these blues. Read on to discover ways you can fight off seasonal doldrums and turn your winter blahs into winter ahas:
1. See the light
Light therapy, or phototherapy, is one way to ease the symptoms of SAD. This treatment uses bright artificial light to mimic outdoor light, and it might just become your new best friend during the dark winter months. Studies have shown that using a light therapy box for at least 30 minutes can make a real difference in helping people feel less glum and more like their happier selves. It’s also used to treat other conditions like jet lag, sleep disorders, and dementia. In addition, make sure your home and office are getting as much light as possible. Open the curtains or blinds and sit closer to the window to lap up all the sunshine you can.
2. Color your world
When the weather outside is gray and cloudy, we tend to mirror the natural world with our wardrobes. Why is this? Research shows that it’s harder for our eyes to accept additional brightness in seasons with less sunlight, making it difficult to take in bright colors throughout the dimmer winter months. It’s also normal to grab for those grays, blacks, and neutrals when your inner world reflects the outer world. Here’s where we might humbly suggest a real “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude. Add bright colors to your outfit rotation anyway! And not just your clothing attire, but your home decor as well. Color your world, and you’re more likely to brighten your mood.
3. Use good scents
Fragrance can uplift even the gloomiest of moods, at least we certainly believe so (or why else would we do what we do). One of our favorite ways to combat cold, gray days? Turn to the scents that make you the happiest, of course! Curate your sensory world with smell-good vibes. Does a certain scent remind you of a beloved memory? Is there a fragrance that energizes or relaxes you? Depending on where you are (home vs. car) and time of day (morning vs. evening) you might find a specific aroma can change your mood entirely. Now we know these preferences can differ for everybody, but we just happen to have a few researched recommendations on tap: you can read them here.
4. Eat your vitamins
There is no denying the link between eating a healthy, balanced diet to physical and mental well-being. Furthermore, there’s evidence that certain foods can improve one’s mood and alleviate symptoms caused by depression. So, what are these magic foods? An intentional diet rich in vitamins A, B-12, C, D, E, and Omega 3 fatty acids is especially comforting to the human body during the winter season… Just follow the alphabet, and you practically can’t go wrong! Some examples of these wonder foods include citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, mushrooms, and oily fish. Turmeric, green tea, and chocolate (hurrah!) are also thought to be superhero ingredients in the fight against the winter blues.
5. Shake things up
An excellent way to get an instant rush of endorphins is to keep active, in mind and body. More specifically: try something new! When you’re at the gym, take a spin class or attempt Zumba if you usually stick to the treadmill. Learn a new language, how to throw pottery, or the basics of French cuisine to release those feel-good hormones. Sign up for educational apps like Skillshare and Duolingo. Mixing things up can get you excited about possibilities instead of focusing on the mundane day in, day out—not to mention those days are already shorter in the winter. Plus, research shows that challenging your neurons can positively alter brain chemistry, and trying something new can help improve social relationships as well as overall well-being.
6. Keep it positive
If you struggle to remain upbeat during the winter months, you are certainly not alone. And it’s important that you never feel alone either. We believe that if you surround yourself with positive people and embody the power of positive thinking, you can affect a positive difference in your day-to-day (naturally). Do something you enjoy, be it listening to music, going for a hike, or writing in your journal—whatever it takes to keep negative thoughts at bay or spiraling into a deep dive of sad, controlling, self-defeating patterns of thought. Find daily affirmations that speak to you and spend time with the people you love and admire, but make sure they are bringing healthy, supportive energy to your life. Finally, focus on the inevitable truth that… Spring. Is. Coming!
Articles from Noteworthy should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health, please seek counsel from a medical professional.