How to Avoid the Winter Blues

At this time of year many people who suffer from depression have a bit of a reprieve.  They are able to get out and about in NYC, enjoy activities, and see friends.  But, just like in Game of Thrones, the knowledge that “winter is coming” is always looming.

Why?  Winter brings with it less daylight, more darkness and colder temperatures. The world becomes less colorful and more black, white and gray. The change to a colder season affects many people’s moods, some of who experience bouts of depression. Winter doesn’t have to mean getting the blues.

If you are someone who has a tendency to experience depression during the winter, there is no better time than the present to start preparing.  Real Simple has some suggestions on how to avoid seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, a form of depression that usually starts in late fall or early winter and improves as the weather warms up) including,

  • Brighten your environment. If your body hungers more daylight try sitting next to a light box for thirty minutes each day. It may help alleviate some depressive symptoms including lethargy, sadness and loss of motivation. Open blinds and curtains to give you an extra dose of sunshine.
  • Eat better. Certain foods, such as nuts, dark leafy vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, berries and foods rich in vitamin D, help boost the body’s immune system but they also support and improve your mood. Other foods that are high in sugary carbohydrates may temporarily make you feel better but they ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Don’t stay away from all carbs, just choose ones that have good health benefits.
  • Simulate dawn. Those with SAD may feel depressed, irritable, lack energy and have difficulty waking up, especially if it’s still dark out. Studies have shown a dawn simulator, which has its own light or causes the lights in a room to gradually brighten over a period of time, can lessen the depressive effects of waking up in the dark and make it easier to get out of bed.
  • Exercise.  A Harvard University study from 2005 suggests quickly walking for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights can boost those results in the winter.
  • Listen to music. A 2013 study showed that hearing upbeat or cheerful music significantly improved test subjects’ mood in the short and long term.
  • Plan or go on a vacation. Life can seem overwhelming with longs days at work during the dark days of winter. It is important to take a break and shut your mind down for a while. Research has shown that just planning a vacation can improve your mood. An actual vacation can work even better.

If you have questions about seasonal mood disorders or feel you need professional help contact me today. We can talk about your situation and work together to find ways to alleviate some of your depression and improve your overall functioning.

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