December 19, 2023
Do you suffer from some form of the winter blues, and dread the coming of the darker months? If so, you are not alone, many people are affected by the onset of the dark cold winter, some people severely so. Although feeling depressed is never pleasant, there are a few things you can do that may help to alleviate these feelings.
First and foremost, it is important to state that if you are feeling depressed it is always best to seek support from your family, friends, or trained professionals. The advice we are offering is not meant to act as a replacement for these vital support systems. Your mental health is important, and so are you!
‘Winter blues’ is a catch all term for the depressed feeling that many people get at the onset of the winter months. The medical term for the more severe cases of the winter blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The symptoms or the winter blues are like those of most depressive disorders, namely feelings of sadness, despair, low energy, low motivation even to participate in activities one enjoys, changes in sleep patterns (typically oversleeping rather than under sleeping), and weight gain.
The leading theories around the winter blues argue that it arises due to changes in sunlight exposure, primarily affecting individuals in fall and winter. The main culprit is the decreased sunlight during these periods, causing disruptions in our body's internal clock and certain brain chemicals. Sunlight plays a key role in keeping our body’s rhythms in sync, particularly in the regulation of our melatonin and serotonin levels. Melatonin regulates our sleep cycles, and serotonin is a natural mood regulator. Diminished sunlight therefore can negatively affect our sleep and mood patterns.
Again, it’s important to stress that if you think you are being seriously affected by the winter blues you should reach out to a professional for help. That being said, there are a couple practices that have been shown to be helpful for people who experience more mild seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy for the winter blues uses a bright lamp that mimics the wavelengths of the sun’s light. Once a day, normally in the morning, you sit with a sunlamp for 20-30 minutes. Many people do this while eating breakfast or getting ready to head out for the day. The light from the lamp sends signals to your brain that the day is starting and that it’s time to be alert and awake, much like the rising sun would in the summertime. Over time, many people report that adding a sun lamp to their morning routine increased their energy levels and wakefulness, as well as helped to improve their mood.
Another popular home remedy for the winter blues is to incorporate any kind of outdoor exercise into your daily routine. If you already enjoy a winter sport such as skating, or skiing then make sure you get out and do it as often as you can! A great way to make sure you get outside everyday is to make taking a walk during the daytime part of your routine. With the daylight hours being so short in the winter, it can sometimes be hard to find time to get outside. We recommend taking a walk on your lunch break if you can. It doesn’t need to be a very long walk, even half an hour outside can have real positive benefits for your mood!
Daily walking is already known to be a great stress reducer, but the effects can be even more powerful in the winter. Getting some natural sunlight helps regulate our melatonin and serotonin levels as we discussed above. Getting some fresh air and spending time outdoors also helps fight the mild cabin fever that many people who work indoors start to feel in the winter months.
If you are planning to go out for a walk, just be sure to keep an eye on the conditions and dress appropriately. If its icy or slippery outside don’t forget to wear your ICETRAX traction aids!
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