Northerners, it’s that time of year again. The beautiful colors of the leaves trigger the awareness of the impending cold, dreary days ahead, in spite of autumn awe.
My monthly client-load often increases about now, due to what has become known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder; also known as the “Winter Blues”.
And, yes, it’s a thing. Less sun, less vitamin D, increased isolation and home-bodiness, which may mean fewer interactions with friends and family. It’s an imposed hibernation-mode existence…Except, as humans, we don’t hibernate.
So, what can one do to help keep spirits up throughout the cold months?
If you are feeling depressed, can’t get out of bed (versus not wanting to), feel hopeless, isolate from others, or feel suicidal, please get help immediately! You are worth every effort you make to feel better!
Otherwise, I encourage my clients to tackle this season in mind and body:
For the body, there are several recommendations out there for the efficacy of ingesting extra vitamin D supplements. Check with your doctor for specific dosage and type that would be best for your body.
Another popular practice is using a sun lamp for the ultraviolet rays we miss out on when we are covered with layers of home and blankets. Twenty minutes a day, preferably in the morning (don’t use it before bedtime—it may interfere with your melatonin production, and therefore sleep cycle!).
Keep healthy food around. Since many food-focused holidays happen in winter, make sure your food choices are healthier ones. Keep bananas on the table, and apples close by. Snack on fulfilling nuts rather than chocolates (although a little dark chocolate here and there can go a long way!). Try new healthy recipes to occupy the part of your brain that focused on food. As you may have noticed, pumpkin spice goes a long way!
For the mind, exercise! Yes, this is great for your body, too, but exercise will help those good brain chemicals lift your mood throughout your day. Plus it will get you moving and distracted from the cold temperatures.
Every day, remember to acknowledge three things that you are grateful for in your life. Keep it simple, fun, and daily. You can keep a gratitude journal, or share your list of three with your partner or a friend. Studies have shown that three-a-day keeps the blues away, and trains your brain to look for the good in your life.
Go outside anyway! Yes, I said it. Get out in the cold! Bundle up and take a 20 minute walk in the cold. You’ll benefit from the movement, the bona fide sunlight (even through the grey skies!), and overcoming your mind-body resistance to the cold.
Be grateful! Just thinking about a few of your favorite things–anything you are grateful for–changes your brain chemistry for the better! If you don’t think so, try it once or twice when you’re feeling down–it will feel like magic! Your mind will calm, your body will relax.
Don’t let feeling SAD get you down this winter! Get up, get moving, and keep yourself looking for the good in every situation! Winter won’t last forever—even though it feels like it—and you’ll be glad you spent it supporting your happiness!