Many of us feel the effects of cold weather, shorter days, and a lack of sunlight. If you suffer significantly, it's actually a diagnosable mental disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD for short), a type of mood disorder with depressive symptoms that tends to appear during the cold and dark months of winter, which is why it is also sometimes called winter depression, seasonal depression, or the "winter blues".
But fear not, SAD sufferers — there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are ways you can overcome seasonal affective disorder and begin to enjoy all seasons. Read on to find out how to beat the winter blues.
How to Beat the Winter Blues
The "winter blues" can cause most of the common symptoms of standard depression, such as fatigue and a lack of energy, sleeping problems, and irritability. For many people, one of the most upsetting aspects of SAD is its recurring nature — it usually rears its ugly head every fall/winter.
But there are research-backed ways to beat the winter blues, the first of which is light therapy.
One of the most beneficial tools to beat the winter blues is light therapy.
Light therapy is the use of artificial light as a means of mimicking real sunlight exposure. It appears to be able to alter certain brain chemicals responsible for mood and therefore has shown to be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder and relieving the associated depressive symptoms. Though SAD symptoms often lessen after a few days, it can sometimes take a couple weeks for light therapy to completely alleviate the symptoms of depression.
If you see a medical professional for your SAD, he or she will likely recommend light therapy and may even provide this treatment to you during your office visits. However, if you don't see a professional for your SAD and find yourself struggling with mild winter blues and want to try something, you can purchase a device for light therapy relatively cheaply.
Supplement with Vitamins
Vitamins are crucial for proper bodily function, growth, and development. But it's not always possible to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need from diet alone — in these cases it may be wise to take a vitamin supplement.
A multivitamin contains most (if not all) of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs to function optimally. Taking a multivitamin assures you that you are doing all you can to avoid suffering from any vitamin deficiencies and the associated symptoms.
It is believed that more than 3 million people per year suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. This is particularly true in the fall and winter months, as vitamin D is absorbed into the body from sunlight exposure. Because of the shorter days and lack of sunlight-to-skin contact during winter, many people do not get an adequate amount of vitamin D.
To counteract this deficiency, many doctors recommend supplementing with vitamin D. The good news about vitamin D supplements is that they are relatively inexpensive. The highest-quality vitamin D supplement we've found is made by Sports Research (view on Amazon).
Especially during the winter when it's difficult to get outside and moving, it's important to make the effort to exercise on a regular basis. Not only does exercise help with your physical fitness, but it also helps to promote better mental health.
Exercising regularly can often help to alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms of SAD (and major depression for that matter), likely due to the release of the brain's "feel-good" chemicals — i.e. neurotransmitters and endorphins.
It can be tough getting started with exercise when you feel down in the dumps. But make the first push and get moving (a brisk walk is a good start) and you'll start feeling better, which will lead to more motivation, which will lead to more exercise, and so forth, in a nice positive feedback cycle.
So there you have it — practical, simple tips to beat the winter blues. Don't let your mood change with the weather. Take steps to avoid feeling down. Trying any of the above recommendations should raise your spirits and have you feeling better in no time.
Note: The information in this article should never replace the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. If your "winter blues" are more than mild, we recommend you seek out a medical professional who has expertise dealing with seasonal affective disorder and can oversee treatment.
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