It can be difficult to remain your usual cheery self in the winter months. When it’s cold outside and raining, it’s completely common to feel like you’re unable to do much of anything. Even getting out of bed and taking a shower can feel impossible. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many millions of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately shorted to SAD, each year.
According to WebMD, “Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. You may have SAD if you felt depressed during the last two winters but felt much better in spring and summer. Some people may have SAD during the summer months.”
If that sounds like something you may be suffering from, here are some tips on how to cope during the colder months.
Go outside soon after waking up
This might seem 100% impossible, but getting out of bed and outside can really help your SAD. This gives you the chance to soak up some rays of sunshine, weak as they might be, which has been found to positively impact mood.
Get yourself a lightbox
It’s not just sunshine that can positively impact your mood. Artificial light works too. And that’s why lightboxes are the standard medical treatment for SAD. These boxes, which are about the size of a TV, emit light from fluorescent bulbs which is akin to the light at sunrise or sunset. Standard treatment for those struggling with SAD involves sitting in front of one of these boxes for 15 minutes to two hours each day.
Take some Vitamin D supplements (AKA fake sun)
Studies have found that taking these supplements can produce improvements in mood. Your body produces Vitamin D naturally when it’s exposed to the sun. In the colder winter months, you might need some help with this.
Make your home brighter
It’s important that you get as much natural light into your home as possible. Keep your blinds and curtains open during the day and if necessary, trim the bushes and trees surrounding your home. Use light colours on your walls and keep your furnishings on the lighter side. Also, be sure to clean up around your house as clutter can be mentally discouraging.
It might be tempting to stay inside and hide under your bedding sets all winter. But it’s important that you actually get out and be social. It might feel good to catch up on all your favourite series while staying warm. But in the long run, you’ll enjoy time spent with loved ones.
Keep to a sleep schedule
You know how many hours of sleep you need to function at your best. And you know what time you need to wake up each morning. So, do the maths and figure out what time you need to fall asleep by. You also know that it can take a certain amount of time to fall asleep, so you need to be sure to be in bed well before you really need to. Be sure to get to bed at the same time each night and soon you’ll be waking up naturally every morning, even in the dead of winter.
Get some exercise
Why go to gym when you can stay indoors and eat sandwiches? True, but exercise is a well-known depression buster. Don’t use winter as an excuse to miss out on all those endorphins. And raising your heart rate will increase your body temperature. So, it’s a win-win.
Limit your caffeine intake
All of that coffee and tea you’re drinking is dehydrating you. Yes, that sounds weird. But it’s true. And if you’re drinking sodas, that spikes your insulin levels and impacts your sugar levels. All of this leads to increased fatigue.
Eat more healthy foods
Some foods, like chocolate, can decrease anxiety and depression. Great news for chocoholics everywhere! But, as always, eat your chocolate in moderation. The general recommendation is one block of dark chocolate daily. Also, be sure to load your plates with plenty of veggies.
Plan a vacation
Research has found that just the act of planning a vacation can lead to improved mood. The process of planning a vacation and looking forward to it for months in advance can significantly impact your SAD and get you through the winter months.
See your doctor
If you’ve followed all of these suggestions and you’re still not feeling like yourself, it might be a good idea to see your doctor or therapist. Your health professional will go through all of your options which might include therapy, medication or increased light therapy.