The fewer hours of daylight, as well as the cold and chilly nights that we experience in the winter season, can leave even the most optimistic of people feeling down.
This is a normal condition which is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), winter depression or winter blues. This condition occurs mostly in women, adolescents and young adults.
The common symptoms of SAD are depression, lethargy, sleep problems, overeating, feeling down, irritability, not wanting to socialize, difficulty concentrating and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. It is obviously not possible to ignore or skip the winter months, but there are many things that you can do to lift your spirits and ensure that you beat the winter blues.
Here are 8 of them:
Exercise is very effective at keeping the winter blues at bay as it provides a natural boost to your physical health and mood. Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise regulates your blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, as well as boosting your self-esteem.
Just one walk a day can help prevent depression. Furthermore, walking in the afternoon, when possible, provides the benefit of light therapy.
Experts suggest walking fast for 35 minutes five times a week or 60 minutes three times a week to boost your mood.
2. Enjoy Natural Light
No matter how much you want to stay indoors on a cold day, it's very important that you go outside and take advantage of any natural daylight that is available. One of the leading causes of SAD is a lack of exposure to sunlight.
Exposure to sunlight, especially first thing in the morning, helps to increase the level of natural antidepressants in the brain. In fact, the brain produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin on sunny days than on bleak ones.
Therefore, during the winter, try to soak up as many rays as you can in the day - open your blinds, draw back your curtains, or take a walk outside.
3. Use a Light Box
If you live in a place that doesn't get much sun during the winter, buying a light box is a great solution for preventing SAD. Light therapy helps to improve your moods by regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, such as noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.
To fighting season depression, you should sit in front of the light box for around 30 minutes a day first thing in the morning. This will stimulate your brain and boost your energy. Light boxes come in all different shapes and sizes, but the white and blue ones are the most effective at overcoming the winter blues.
Taking vitamin D supplements is important if you just so happen to live in a place which does not get much sun - the body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D, sometimes called the "sunshine vitamin", plays an important role in improving mood and preventing the symptoms of depression. The vitamin helps in the production of serotonin, the brain hormone that helps to elevate moods and happiness.
Therefore, taking a Vitamin D supplement (after consulting your doctor) can lead to improvement in your moods. furthermore, your body can absorb vitamin D through food. Great sources of vitamin D include milk, eggs yolks, and fish.
5. Stock Up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
During the winter months, it's vital to eat food which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for emotional health. People with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to experience moderate or mild symptoms of depression.
To get more Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, eat more tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
6. Keep Warm
To fight off sadness during the winter months, it's important to stay warm. Cold weather will make you feel depressed as feeling cold makes you feel even more down.
To keep warm, drink hot beverages and eat warm foods. You can opt for herbal teas instead of regular coffee as it tends to be dehydrating. Furthermore, make sure your home stays between a cozy 18 and 21 degrees centigrade.
A lot of people love a nice cup of hot coffee on a cold day. However, while drinking a cup or two is not bad for you, drinking coffee in excess is damaging to your physical and emotional health.
Too much caffeine in your system interferes with your natural circadian rhythm, thus affecting your sleep. A lack of sleep can lead to depression and mood swings. Therefore, instead of drinking coffee, opt for green tea instead.
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and amino acids, and these can help you overcome depression in a natural way. In particular, the amino acid theanine has been found to reduce stress and increase dopamine levels in the brain. Drink 3 to 4 cups of green tea each day to help lift your mood and improve your overall health.
8. Do 10 minutes of Meditation Daily
Meditation is another useful tool to beat the winter blues. The reason for this is that meditation helps to fight negative moods and brings about a sense of calmness. Meditation effectively relaxes both the mind and body, which in turn leads to increased activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with happiness and reduced activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with stress.
There are different types of meditation that help prevent depression. Mindfulness is considered to be one of the most effective types. With this type of meditation, you learn to pay attention to the moment-by-moment unfolding of the external and internal world.
Start off by doing a couple of minutes of meditation a day, then gradually increase it to at least 10 minutes a day.
• Bring a bit of cheer into your home with bright colors and lights.
• Find a new interest or hobby that will help keep your mind active.
• Take a vacation to a warmer climate with a lot of sunshine. This will have enormous benefits for your physical and mental well-being.
• Try to always think positively.