7 Proven Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
By this time of year most of us are tired of the dreary days and cold temperatures that are part of our winter months. But for some, it is more than just a dislike for our drawn out winters, it can actually deepen into what many refer to as the winter blues, known clinically as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
SAD is the cause of reoccurring depression in 10 to 20 percent of women in the U.S. Symptoms of SAD can include anxiety, exhaustion, and overwhelming sadness.
Proven Actions to Ease the Winter Blues
Here are some scientifically backed ways to lift your spirits and beat the winter doldrums.
Bright-light therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for SAD . Light boxes — flat screens that produce full-spectrum fluorescent light, usually at an intensity of 10,000 lux —when used for 30 – 60 minutes each day help offset a body’s craving for more daylight.
Some health clubs offer light-box rooms where you can go sit in front of the boxes if you can’t afford to buy one for yourself.
Individuals with SAD may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark outside. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can make it easier to get out of bed.
Spend Time Outside
The cold can also keep even regular exercisers indoors, reducing their sun exposure. Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
A Harvard study found walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights improved general mental health, social functioning and vitality.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet will increase your energy levels and improve your mood.
Helping others through volunteer activities can improve your mental health and life satisfaction.
Plan a Vacation
Longing for the warm breezes and sunny days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.
Seek Professional Care If Necessary
Overcoming the winter blues can be challenging. But if trying these suggestions isn’t enough to improve your overall mood, it is important that you see a doctor that can prescribe a treatment plan that will get you through these dreary days.