How to Avoid the Winter Blues

As the days get shorter during the chilly winter months, many people experience sadness and anxiety. For some, this could just be a case of ‘winter blues’, but for others, it may be Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly abbreviated as SAD. 

According to psychiatrist Dr. Jason Hershberger in an article with The Huffington Post, “there are overlapping symptoms of sadness and melancholy, but holiday blues often lift after the holidays pass, [while] seasonal affective disorder typically runs until there is a significant change in the amount of sunlight that the patient experiences." 

Whether you’re experiencing the winter blues or SAD, there are simple things you can do to lessen the stress and brighten your days. 

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The main problem for people with SAD is a lack of vitamin D, or sunlight, so light therapy is often recommended to help the body naturally produce serotonin, which is believed to act as a mood stabilizer. Light therapy is done with light boxes, which can be purchased online. The light helps regulate the body clock. According to Dr. Alfred Lewy at the Oregon University of Health Sciences, “your natural clock is usually longer than 24 hours, and you need light in the morning to set it and keep on track. If you can fix the drift, you can fix the depression.”

Making minor changes in your living space to let in natural light also helps. Consider switching dark curtains to lighter ones, and don’t be afraid to open them during the day to let in sunlight. You can also bring the outdoors inside with plants, if you’re particularly missing the greenery of spring and summer.

A major component in beating the winter blues is keeping yourself healthy - in body, mind and spirit. The cold months are notorious for colds, flu and other bugs. Getting sick may not always be in your control, but if your body is healthy to begin with, it fights off infection without taking you down too much. 

Part of being healthy is staying active, so get outside and take a walk. Exercise is a great pick-me-up and the sunlight can help lift your spirits. Some days it may be too cold or snowy, so stay safe inside! But take advantage of warm and sunny days when you have them by taking a walk or sit on the porch for a few minutes. 

Drink plenty of water, eat your veggies and wash your hands. During the winter, we tend to eat high-calorie comfort foods. Try to maintain a balanced diet, as too much sugar and carbohydrates will slow you down and throw your serotonin levels off balance. 

Blog Image - Winter Couple

If you’re feeling down, one of the best cures for loneliness is to be around people. Arrange a get-together with a friend or two, give someone a call or visit with a neighbor. When the weather is cold, we often don’t want to go out, but keeping yourself busy will help occupy your mind. Try volunteering, if you’re able. Set a goal to accomplish, big or small, every day. If you’re stuck in the house, organize something, rearrange furniture or finish a craft. Setting yourself up for success results in happiness.  

For the elderly or those who need home care, providing added attention during the gloomy winter months can make a big difference. Perhaps a family member, friend or professional caregiver could visit early each morning to sit and chat near a light box as part of a daily routine. 

It may be cold, and there may be less daylight outside, so bring joy and light into your homes this winter. Keep yourself active, healthy and social to help kick the blues to the curb. And remember, if you think it may be something more than just winter blues, talk to a medical professional about the possibility of SAD.  

By Maggie Cunningham