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How to Fight the Winter Blues

Resist the urge to isolate yourself when experiencing the winter blues. Resist the urge to isolate yourself when experiencing the winter blues.

Winter brings more than just cold weather and holidays; for many of us it means facing the “winter blues.” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which affects millions worldwide every winter. Most people start experiencing symptoms in the fall and continue to struggle until spring.

 

Gray skies and long nights can leave you feeling more tired than usual, listless, and unmotivated. Anxiety, hopelessness, and oversleeping are also common symptoms of SAD, as well as a loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy. Fortunately there are many ways you can combat these feelings and successfully fight the winter blues.

Light it Up

Research has shown the lack of light in wintertime often results in lower levels of serotonin, our brain’s mood-boosting chemical which regulates feelings of well-being. You can increase serotonin levels with medication, but you can also jumpstart your body’s production of this feel-good chemical naturally with bright light.

Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, states that subjecting yourself to bright indoor light is “the touchstone of seasonal affective disorder treatment.” Experts agree natural light is best, but there’s not always a whole lot to go around during winter. Many locations easily go days or weeks without even a hint of sunlight. On the rare days the sun is shining, spend as much time as you can outside. When freezing temps bring you back in, sit by a window.

Light boxes and specialty bulbs are another option for those severely affected by SAD. Light therapy is best when used in the morning. Although they may be pricey, light boxes mimic natural sunlight and boost your body’s serotonin levels, putting you in a good mood.

Walk it Off

Exercise is a key element to fighting the winter blues. So if you’re reading this while lounging in your La-Z Boy, it’s time to get off your tush! We realize exercise is difficult – even when you’re in a perfectly good mood. When you’re depressed, fugetaboutit. But it really is crucial to your health - mental and physical. You may have to force yourself at first, but when you get in a good rhythm, it will become easier.

Start with walking (on a treadmill if outside isn’t possible) 15 or 20 minutes at least every other day. Join a gym if you can – the different equipment will give you a great workout and prevent you from getting bored. A gym with a pool would be ideal; swimming is an excellent full-body exercise. Jog, dance (don’t laugh, guys! It’s an effective and fun workout), kickbox – do anything that gets you moving. The feel-good hormones your body releases during exercise will make it worth your while.

Get Out

Social withdrawal is a common side effect of wintertime depression. It’s dark, it’s cold – you just don’t feel like going out. Fight that feeling! Staying in by yourself watching “House” reruns isn’t going to do anything for your mood. Join your buddies at the club, start a poker night at your house – anything to fill your time with fun and friends.

The more you get out, the better you’ll feel. Time well spent gives you a sense of accomplishment – a mood-lifter in itself. Being involved with a good cause is another effective way to fight off depression. (Not to mention volunteering is a great way to meet girls.)

Don’t let winter blues get the best of you. Recognize the symptoms as your body’s way of telling you to make a change, and do it! Get out, get moving – do everything you can to fight off negative feelings. Take control of your life and be determined to stay in the driver’s seat. Before you know it, sunny days will be here again.

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Battling the Winter Blues
Last modified on Friday, 19 October 2012 15:56

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