With winter being cold and often overcast, it’s no wonder that many people experience depression during this season. Lack of sufficient sunlight can induce sadness or exacerbate existing symptoms of mental illness. Being stuck indoors can lead to feelings of isolation and despair. Spring may be far away, but you don’t have to resign yourself to the winter blues until then. You can sustain happiness and productivity all year long no matter the weather.
Winter Blues Versus Seasonal Affective Disorder
First, it’s important to understand the different types of depression during the winter months. Anyone can experience various levels of the doldrums due to the shortened days, drop in temperature, and disappearance of color and nature. Common signs are sluggishness, food cravings, and a gloomy mood.
However, only a very small portion of Americans are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which refers to extreme and pervasive depression that results in significant weight change, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities. This type of depression requires medication, light therapy, and professional support.
How To Beat the Winter Blues
The good news is that you can counteract the effects of seasonal depression no matter where you land on the spectrum, and the remedy is simple.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule. The daylight changes mess with your natural body clock, so help it out by continuing to wake up and go to bed at the same times. Make sure you are getting enough sleep without oversleeping.
- Exercise. It can be easy to plant yourself on the couch and binge on TV shows. Remain active and start your day with movement. You can hit the gym, run outdoors, or exercise in the living room. Instead of letting the weather dictate your activity level, get involved in winter sports.
- Go outside. Get as much sunlight as possible as early as possible. If you have to be at work before the sun is out, soak up some rays during your lunch break. The chilly weather can be a deterrent, so make sure you have enough winter gear on you to keep warm. If sunshine is rare, you can benefit from light therapy even if you don’t have SAD. Another option is to go on vacation to a sunnier location if you can afford to.
- Be social. Battle cabin fever and isolation by keeping your social calendar full. Connecting with loved ones fills up your emotional tank, making it easier to fight the blues.
- Boost your immune system. Taking care of your physical health not only prevents sickness but also enhances emotional well-being. Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, and talk to your healthcare provider about taking certain vitamins, such as vitamin D. Wash your hands frequently to avoid getting sick.
- Set goals. Having something to work toward can help you keep up productivity. Set small daily goals, such as tidying up clutter, making a homemade meal, calling or visiting a family member, meditating, or running an errand.
If you find that your winter blues aren’t going away with this action plan, you may also need professional support from Waypointe. Our individualized treatment programs can get you back on track to happiness.