It is not uncommon for some people to feel less energetic and cheerful during the winter months. In fact, winter blues have a clinical version called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People who suffer from this condition struggle with the cold weather, shorter days, and the general blah of the winter season.
You’ve probably woken up on a gray, snowy day and wanted to stay in bed. For cancer patients, it’s even tougher. The decreased exposure to sunlight affects our circadian rhythm, changing certain wave activity in our brain and interferes with hormone production. If you’re not a huge fan of this season, here are tips and activities to help with your mental health.
Stock Up On Vitamin D
Various illnesses are linked with low vitamin D levels, especially depression. Since we get most of our vitamin D from the sun, it’s a good idea eat foods that are rich in this specific nutrient or take a supplement. The National Institutes of Health guidelines suggest taking 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day.
Meanwhile, osteopathic physician and The New York Times bestselling author Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends adults take as much as 5,000 IU per day. Consider adding good sources of vitamin D in your diet, such as tuna, yogurt, milk, eggs, swordfish, cod liver oil, and sardines.
Wear Bright Colors
Sporting brighter colors could make you feel more optimistic and remember the sunny summer months. As people often say, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Trick your brain into thinking of the brighter days instead of focusing on the blizzard outside. There might not be enough scientific evidence supporting this theory, but there definitely is no harm in trying. Who knows – wearing yellow might take away some of the winter blues.
Hang With Positive People
Too much negativity can be unbearable, especially during the gray days of winter. The people around you influence you more than you think. You’ll likely to be spending more time indoors and just hanging out with friends over coffee, but be sure to stop negativity when it gets too thick. In one study conducted by James Fowler, Ph.D., of the University of California in San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis, MD, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, individuals who associated themselves with happy people were more likely to be cheerful themselves.
Psychological scientists Jennifer Hames and Gerald Haeffel of the University of Notre Dame also found out that depression can affect other people and can even be contagious. If you surround yourself with people who love winter, you might be inclined to feel the same.
Eat Winter Mood Foods
Winter is a great time to explore new recipes. If you have a slow cooker, try some tasty mind-boosting stews and soups. Experiment with great fall and winter ingredients like eggplant (which is a good source of copper, fiber, manganese, and vitamin B1), squash (which contains potassium and magnesium), turmeric (a great aid for hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and stress pathways), and sweet potatoes (full of anti-inflammatory flavonoids, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, and biotin).
Behave Like You’re Minnesota
The Minnesotans are known to adapt even to the strongest blizzards that come to their town. When snow hit the ground in October and didn’t leave until the end of May in 1996, these people did not lock themselves in the warm comfort of their homes. Instead, they got all the necessary gear they needed, went ice-skating, ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and did everything in their power to appreciate the cold element. Run in the snow, have fun with some icicles, and throw a pail of water from your balcony and watch it come down as snow. There are many fun activities to try in winter that will surely chase the blues away.
Make A Book And Movie List
If you’ve been meaning to read a new book or watch movies you’ve been putting off for a while, winter is the best time to finally start them. Challenge yourself to read all the classics during these cold months instead of feeling down over not being able to play on the lacrosse field. Studies reveal that humor can relieve pain, so why not try giving comedy a try?
Try Something New
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to experience or learning. This means that trying something new will rewire your brain. Try your hand at a new card game or pick up a different musical instrument. Take advantage of your days indoors to learn a new skill.
Use A Sun Lamp
Light therapy boxes mimic sunshine and aid in the recovery from seasonal affective disorder. They provide significantly brighter illumination than regular light bulbs. Sit in front of a light box for about 30 minutes a day to stimulate your body’s circadian rhythm. According to researchers at the University of Michigan Depression Center, most people find light therapy to be most effective if used when they first get up in the morning.
Sit By The Fire
The calming feeling you get when you bask in the warmth of a fireplace is primal. There is something consoling about heating your hands and staring into the embers. You don’t have to go to the trouble of building a fire in your house – you can simply light a few candles or share with someone else’s fireplace.
Talk With Your Doctor
Since you are dealing with a form of depression, it’s best to consult a mental health professional for the right diagnosis. You will be asked screening questions that will determine if you are depressed. Your consultation will also give you the opportunity to get therapy and work through your condition. If you notice a drop in how you feel during these cold months, visit a psychiatrist to confirm your diagnosis.
Experts aren’t certain why people get seasonal affective disorder. Regardless, it is a treatable condition. As with all forms of depression, winter blues can limit people’s ability to live their lives to the fullest. There are plenty of treatment options to help you get through this tough time.