Anyone who struggles with Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), knows the winter months can be the hardest. Less hours of sunlight and more chilly weather can have a detrimental affect on your mood.
With this dip in serotonin, it’s easy to get in the habit of hitting snooze and letting the laziness or lack of interest overcome you. Most days you’d probably rather stay in bed with Netflix than do anything else, but it’s important to keep yourself busy.
These are just a few ways to help you cope with the change in seasons this year.
1. Let the sunshine in.
During the colder months, getting out of bed in the mornings can be near impossible. Ani Kalayjian, Ph.D, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University tells her clients to open curtains as much as possible to get exposure to natural light right when the body is waking up. So let that sunshine on in and get your day started on the right foot.
2. Get your sweat on.
Working out is another great way to combat SAD. Not only are you giving your brain and body something to focus on, but you’re also releasing copious amounts of endorphins which create feelings of euphoria and happiness. In 2013, the American College of Sports Medicine Journal published a meta-review suggesting that for some individuals, exercise might be comparable to therapy or anti-depressants as an effective treatment for depression. Even if it’s just a quick walk around the block with your pup, getting your heart rate up can make a huge difference in your mood.
3. Cut back on sugar.
Obviously, excessive sugar can put you at risk for all sorts of things like weight gain and diabetes. Research shows that sugar can also have a detrimental effect on our mental health. Scientists hypothesize that it hinders the body’s ability to cope with stress and can worsen anxiety. You may be tempted to reach into the candy bowl or eat something sweet to give you a little energy boost, but the inevitable crash will leave you feeling even more sluggish than before. Instead, try snacks that are high in protein and fiber to give you a long lasting healthier energy.
4. Stick to your routine.
While the colder weather and daylight savings time may give you an impulse to spend your days in hibernation, it’s important not to neglect your daily activities, particularly the ones you enjoy most. You’ll feel more like yourself if your productivity isn’t suffering and if you’re continuing to hang out with friends at bookclub or other social gatherings.
5. Develop some wintertime interests.
The change in seasons is also a good opportunity to delve into some new interests. You might not be able to play beach volleyball anymore, but you could try out for an indoor team or maybe take a shot at a different sport. Kelly Rohan, Ph.D, Professor and Director of Clinical Training at University of Vermont says “Having fun is central to having a good mood.” So, try finding some winter activities you enjoy and go from there!
6. Start practicing meditation.
Studies show that practicing yoga and other forms of meditation can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Also, preliminary research on meditation reveals that breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises can actually change neural networks and decrease stress. So, start practicing your downward dog and find a friend to take to yoga with you.
7. Plan a trip.
Nothing puts you in a good mood like the prospect of travel and a vacation. People affected with seasonal depression will benefit from additional sunshine if they head south, but taking a break from work is important for anyone’s mental health. “Across the board, SAD patients will tell you they feel better after vacation,” says Dr. Rohan. It doesn’t even have to be a long trip if you’re worried about taking time off. Maybe plan a weekend getaway and you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel afterwards.