The sky is gray, the sun hasn’t nosed out from behind the clouds in what seems like weeks, and your lawn is covered with a thick coating of dingy, icy snow. No wonder you’ve been so down in the dumps these last few weeks.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common form of clinical depression that affects thousands of Americans every year. Although more common in women and young adults, it can affect anyone and be influenced by stress, family history, or other emotional issues. S.A.D. is more common among those with Vitamin D deficiencies, and can cause negative symptoms such as sadness, irritability, and appetite imbalances. It usually rears its head between September and April, with the worst periods of depression occurring from around December to February.
Even if you don’t have full blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter blues can be difficult to deal with and can affect your day-to-day functioning and quality of life. Luckily, they are incredibly easy to treat with natural remedies.
- Get some exercise– in moderation
Exercise is one of the best and easiest ways to combat winter blues, helping to mitigate both the cause and symptoms of seasonal depression. While it may be difficult to drag yourself to the gym when you’re feeling lethargic and the weather is cold, exercise helps to increase the production of the “happy” chemicals in your brain, as well as endorphins. This can help lift the brain fog and sadness that are plaguing you. Just thirty minutes of walking can be enough to lift your mood in most cases.
Even better, take your workout outside. While it can be difficult to force yourself outside during the brutally cold months, keep in mind that the cool, fresh air can rejuvenate and energize you. Go for winter hikes, walk the dog, or consider a new hobby such as skiing, snowshoeing, or ice fishing. Be sure to bundle up, of course, but remember that once you get outside, you likely won’t want to head back indoors because you will enjoy it so much.
On the flip side of exercise, you should also try to get plenty of sleep. Insomnia and lack of sleep go hand in hand with depression, and this can soon become a vicious cycle. If you aren’t sleeping well, you’ll find it more difficult to cope with stress and emotional challenges. Try to maintain a healthy and regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and avoid caffeine and processed foods as much as possible.
- Eat to combat blues
One of the easiest ways to combat seasonal depression is through proper nutrition. Depression is often caused by overconsumption of processed substances like sugar and simple carbohydrates. Cutting out processed foods and adding more foods that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids can help increase your energy and reduce feelings of depression.
In particular, try to eat so that you increase your consumption of Vitamin D. Seasonal depression is caused by a deficiency in this crucial nutrient, which is also necessary for other elements of health, such as bone and joint nutrition. Many adults suffer from a deficiency in Vitamin D even during the warmer months of the year. If you find it difficult to maintain an adequate balance of Vitamin D through nutrition alone (this vitamin is found in cheese, fatty fish, and egg yolks, for example), consider adding a supplement to up your levels.
Although you might crave comfort foods high in carbohydrates or sugars in the colder months, know that indulging in these cravings will make you feel much worse. Instead, focus on eating foods high in protein. Protein-rich foods such as beans, dairy, and lean meat contain a crucial amino acid known as tyrosine. This acid helps to increase feel-good chemicals in your brain, such as dopamine, helping you feel happier and more alert.
One of the easiest and most surefire ways to conquer depression is to talk it out. Meet regularly with friends and share your feelings with them whenever possible. Better yet, if you find yourself completely overwhelmed by negative feelings, consider meeting with a trained psychologist or counselor. They are trained in the symptoms and treatment of seasonal depression and know the steps to walk you through it. They can use strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to talk you through the challenges associated with seasonal depression.
The best way to increase your exposure is to add more natural light. Spend at least half an hour outside a day, when possible, even if the sun is behind the clouds. Often, it may seem like you aren’t exposed to any light, but enough of the sun’s rays will peek out to increase your mood.
If you are having trouble getting outside during the cold weather but still want to increase your exposure to sunlight, consider investing in a light box. These have been shown to help up to eighty percent of patients affected by seasonal depression. This form of light therapy allows you to gain exposure to bright light even when the sun has disappeared. Light boxes should be used on a daily basis from September through April, and can be used more if necessary. You might also consider opening your shades or adding skylights to your home, if a lack of natural light exposure continues to be an issue. Sleep with your curtains open so that you can awaken to natural sunlight whenever possible.
- Willard’s water
Hydration is another important element of staying healthy and happy during the cold winter months. You might not be sweating out as many fluids and electrolytes as during the summer months, but it’s important that you maintain sufficient hydration so that your urine is always a clear or pale, yellow color. Staying hydrated helps you stay more alert and fight feelings of hunger and depression.
Plain water is sufficient in most cases, but if you’re having a hard time staying hydrated on water alone, consider adding a supplemental beverage, such as Dr. Willard’s Water. This beverage helps to accelerate and enhance the body’s natural processes, increasing your ability to absorb vitamins (such as Vitamin D!) and other nutrients. Although it’s not a stand-alone substitute for proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, and sunlight exposure, it can help regulate your body processes so that these behaviors are made easier and more natural.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in combating the winter blues. This common condition affects everybody to some extent at some point in their lives and can be treated easily with a few simple lifestyle tweaks. And remember–spring is on the way!