fight off winter blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Fight Off the Winter Blues

When you imagine the perfect winter, you probably envision something romantic. What comes to your mind are magical reindeers pulling a sleigh through the air, the natural surroundings filled with a new level of beauty because of snow and you siting by the fireplace with the people you love the most.

However, the reality of winter is a lot less epic and way more unfriendly than you think. You will feel sluggish and lose interest in the activities you once enjoyed. You will also start going to bed early but have difficulty waking up. And, when you do wake up, your mood will resemble the landscape outside- cold, dark and mean.

The gloom brought about by Mother Nature during winter is felt by most people. For some, this manifests itself as winter doldrums- the “I can hardly wait for winter season to end” feeling. But others experience a pretty severe form of winter depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read on to learn more about the winter depression.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Also known as winter blues, seasonal affective disorder is very similar to clinical depression. The only difference is that SAD happens at a specific time of the year, often during winter. It’s important to note that this winter depression can be mild or severe. For instance, waking up later than usual is one thing, but failing to go to work altogether is another. With the mild form, you can gain 5 or 6 pounds throughout the winter season. But with full-blown SAD, you will gain weight like a newlywed.

Both forms of winter depression stem from one thing though: your body’s sensitivity to the lack of sunlight. Winter is characterized by shorter days, which means less exposure to sunlight. The reduced amount of sunlight affects the circadian rhythm. And no, this is not a dance move!

Circadian rhythm is simply the internal clock that tells your body when to sleep, wake, and eat. This biological process is facilitated by your body’s production of melatonin. With insufficient sunlight, the body produces more melatonin; thus, causing you to feel tired and sluggish.

5 Ways to Fight Off the Winter Blues

If you loathe the winter blues, you’re not alone. But there are ways to combat this.

1. Embrace the Season

Having winter depression can be likened to having a fear of heights. Now imagine that you’re stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel; you have two options. You can panic, which is what most people would do. Or, you can steady your breath and remind your terror-stricken self that you’ll soon be on safe ground.

Winter season is no different- there’s nothing you can do to change the state of weather. But, you can adapt to it. During fall, make a trip to your local store and buy necessary gear. When the winter months roll in, brave the inclement weather in fun ways. You can go ice-skating, plan a winter hike, build a snow fort and more.

2. Exercise

A lot of people start the winter with big fitness plans. But when it comes down to doing the work, how many of you are guilty for choosing your giant couch over the treadmill? If you don’t want to fall into this trap, we recommend picking an exercise that you truly enjoy. When you work out, your body releases endorphin- the hormone responsible for making you feel happy.

3. Go for Complex Carbohydrates

As the days get shorter and temperatures start dropping, most people start craving for waist-bulging carbs like garlic bread and pizza. There’s nothing wrong with having simple carbs every once in a while. But remember that they’ll only give you short-term pleasure.

Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbs get digested very fast, and this causes a spike in your blood glucose level. The increase in your blood sugar is one of the reasons why you feel cranky and grumpy all day long. To enhance your mood during this cold weather, stock up on broccoli, spinach, lentils and other complex carbs.

4. Light Therapy

If exercise is not your cup of tea, another option to consider is light therapy. This treatment has been proven effective for 60 to 80 percent of patients who experience winter blues.

You can buy special light boxes online or from major home retail stores. For this to work though, you’ll need to use lamps that have at least 10,000 lux. Such lamps designed for SAD treatment have ten to twenty times more power than normal lighting fixtures.

5. Start a Project

There’s no better time to try out new things than during winter. Instead of sulking all day, why not start a new project at home? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. It can be as simple as painting your home office or decluttering your basement. These projects are the perfect way to distract yourself from the dull weather. Plus, they give you a sense of accomplishment.

Wrap Up

If you find yourself struggling to concentrate, having greater appetite and feeling lethargic during winter, odds are that you’re trying to hibernate. If you were a bear, this wouldn’t be a problem. But since you’re not, this can only mean one thing- you’re developing winter blues. This is a condition characterized by low mood, low energy levels as well as fluctuations in appetite.

Luckily, there are a ton of ways to beat the winter blues: embark on a new project, use light therapy and replace the simple carbohydrates in your diet with complex ones.  

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