Beating the winter blues

 

We’ve all heard of the “Winter Blues” and if you’re like me … you may wonder if it is a legit thing or just an excuse to stay inside and be lazy when it gets cold.  Well, turns out it is a very real thing that even comes with a scientific name and explanation.

Scientific Name: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Scientific Definition: Depression associated with late autumn and winter that is thought to be caused by a lack of light
Scientific Explanation: The specific cause of SAD is unknown but theories include the effect reduced sunlight has on circadian rhythm, serotonin levels and melatonin levels. Less sunlight may disrupt the body’s internal clock, cause a drop in serotonin and disrupt the balance of melatonin all of which can result in depression

Symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Agitation/anxiety

We can’t control the weather or the time of year so what can we do to beat these winter blues?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Spend as much time as possible near light sources
    • This can be as easy as sitting beside a window or you can purchase a light therapy lamp
    • If things like curtains or branches are blocking sunlight that could be entering your environment consider opening the curtains and trimming the trees
  2. Consider your diet
    • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet to maintain good mental health
    • Chocolate has been known to enhance moods and relieve anxiety (consume chocolate in moderation of course)
  3. Listen to music
    • Upbeat and cheery music can drastically improve mental state
  4. Plan a vacation
    • If your budget allows it, plan a trip to a location with warmer temperatures and more sunlight
    • Not only will the exposure to sunlight help, knowing there is a trip to look forward to makes winter a little easier to bear
  5. Socialize
    • It’s easy to go home after work and hibernate there but do what you can to make an effort to socialize
    • Go out for dinner, visit family and friends
    • Do whatever you need to do to avoid isolating yourself!
  6. Make a conscious decision to not let the blues control your life
    • Mind over matter
    • Embrace the season and set some goals to work towards
  7. EXERCISE
    • Physical exercise is a PROVEN depression preventer
      • Find an activity you like (it can even be inside) and DO IT!
  8. GET OUTSIDE
    • Even if it’s cold, bundle up and get some fresh air by going for even a short walk

The most important suggestions in that list were the last two (save the best for last right?).

When it is cold and gets dark early most people just want to stay home, curl up in front of the TV with a blank and do nothing. This is great every once and awhile but can be a slippery slope if it becomes routine. Feelings of depression, laziness and exhaustion can follow if this becomes a habit.

The best/easiest way to combat this habit from forming is to find an activity you enjoy, if it can be done outdoors that would be ideal because you will also get some fresh air but indoor activities are great too!

  • Snow shoeing
  • Downhill/Cross country skiing
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Join the gym
    • Can’t find time or afford the gym? Find at home workouts on YouTube or Pinterest!
  • Take a painting class
  • Go skating
  • Pilates

 

Author:
Leah (Bryden) Olsen
Arthritis & Injury Care Centre

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