5 Fixes for the Winter Blues
The air turns crisp, the apples are ripe, leaves crunch under your feet. There are many things to be enjoyed when summer fades, but those fall colors quickly fade, everything goes gray, and you can start to wonder if the sun has abandoned you for a permanent vacation in Miami. Lack of energy, trouble sleeping, or even sleeping too much, struggling to get things done, and just a general feeling of sadness can all be signs of the winter blues, also known as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The farther away you live from the equator, the less sunlight you get during those long winter days. In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, there is an average of 152 days of sunshine. Compare that with Florida’s average of 237 and California’s average of 284 sunny days!
*SAD is a kind of depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern and comes and goes as the seasons change. It usually begins in the late fall and lasts until early spring. (See more information about diagnosing SAD below)
With a little planning, these five steps will set you up with a self-care routine that will help to alleviate winter blues symptoms and keep the happiness flowing until spring!
1. Happy Light
Light therapy is one of my winter essentials! Lightboxes imitate natural light and will also have positive effects on your mood and sleep overall. When we are deprived of daylight our bodies can fail to regulate the hormone melatonin, which regulates our sleep and serotonin, which helps with mood stability and happiness.
TIP: In as little as 20–30 minutes a day a happy light will help to keep these all-important hormones in balance.
Changes in diet and lack of natural sunlight can deplete our bodies of essential nutrients. Both D and B-Complex vitamins are an important part of emotional and mental health all year round. Lack of vitamin D may cause fatigue, depressed mood, and put you at higher risk for colds and flu. TIP: Good sources of Vitamin D include:
-Fortified plant milk
B vitamins are depleted by many of the foods we all enjoy during the holidays, like alcohol, caffeine, and sugary treats. They are also water-soluble so they must be replenished on a regular basis.
TIP: Good sources of B-Complex vitamins include:
It’s cold out and it gets dark at about 4 o’clock, all the more reason to keep up a regular exercise routine! There are many more excuses to hibernate in the colder months but this is actually counterintuitive to your well-being.
TIP: Go the gym, bundle up and take a walk outside, roll out your yoga mat, anything to keep your blood pumping and those endorphins flowing.
4. Healthy Eating
Of course, healthy food is important all year round, but it’s even more vital in the colder months. Typically the variety of fresh fruits and veggies can be limited and the holidays often bring sugary foods we might otherwise avoid. These refined sugars are linked to inflammation, which in turn can disrupt sleep patterns, further exacerbating winter blues symptoms.
TIP: Eat healthy at home before attending holiday gatherings, bring healthy snacks and meals to share at potlucks and work parties
Bring the outside in! Plants are known to reduce stress, produce oxygen, reduce indoor pollutants, and brighten up your living space. Plants also go through the action of transpiration, a process where water moves through them and evaporates through the leaves and flowers. This means that they increase the humidity indoors when your space has closed windows and drying heat.
TIP: Ferns and fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender are easy to care for and economical. Use caution if you have pets! Keep all plants away from pets, some may be harmful and poisonous.
*A NOTE ABOUT SAD: If these natural remedies do not relieve your symptoms seek the advice of mental health and/or medical professional. It is normal to have some melancholy days, but if they last for an extended period of time, talk to your doctor, especially if you experience feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.