With daylight hours growing shorter, and daylight savings time ending for most of us Nov. 1, many people have difficulty adjusting to the colder, darker months. An estimated 10 million Americans struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and women are more than four times as likely as men to have it.
As a mental health issue, SAD is more than just being down about the cold and gloom of the winter months — it actually tends to keep you down and affects you day after day. If you suspect you might have this disorder, you should talk to your doctor about it.
If you’re wondering how to beat those common winter blues, or looking for a way to improve your outlook (whether you have SAD or not), here are some things you can try:
Stay Busy — Curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book is great, as long as it’s giving you the peace of mind you need to pull you through the down times. But along with taking time to relax, try to incorporate some activities that include more physicality: an exercise group, an arts and crafts club, or embrace the colder weather and get outside for some exercise. You can also boost your spirits by helping others. Volunteer to help schools or organizations in your community, such as organizing a toy drive for the holidays. There are so many options, and it will be as good for you as it is for others.
Stay Healthy — During the winter months, it’s easy to indulge in warm comfort foods that aren’t always the best for you. While there’s something to be said for the comfort it brings, it can also weigh you down — literally. The average weight gain during the winter months is 5-7 pounds. Stock your home with healthy food choices, and try to keep the processed foods to a minimum. While a little bit of comfort food now and then might serve a purpose, eating too much of it may only make you feel worse — especially if you already tend to feel guilty when you eat something you’re trying to avoid. Eating healthy food has a way of making you feel lighter, which may support a more positive outlook. The winter months are drier, so make sure that you are staying hydrated and getting plenty of Vitamin C. Do what you can to keep your immune system strong.
Mind Your Emotions — Sometimes the negativity we feel in the winter can be overcome by adapting how we think. If we choose to work on our mindset, that can make all the difference in keeping negativity at bay or bouncing back from it. Starting the day with a positive affirmation can help you keep your mind in a happy place for the rest of the day. Your morning routine could set you off on a positive or negative foot for the next 16 hours, so be mindful of how you begin the day. It is also important to surround yourself with positivity if you want to stay happy. Listen to positive music that makes you feel good. Spend time laughing with friends, and feed yourself with positive self-talk. If negative emotional energy is hiding out in your body, you may be more likely to feel those emotions often or be triggered. Energy healing with The Emotion Code® can help you let go of Trapped Emotions that can get you down. Awareness of negative energy within is the first step toward clearing it.
Stay Connected — Seasonal sadness can cause you to seek isolation, crawl under those covers, and not come out until spring. It may be easier to beat the winter blues if you stay connected with others who lift your spirits. This can be a challenge during the pandemic when people are being urged to practice social distancing, but there are many ways to stay in touch with those you care for. Catch up with old friends via social media, email, or phone. Schedule phone or video calls. You could even start a winter blues group to discuss books, movies, or other shared interests.
Celebrate the Season — Winter can be a magical time, no matter where you live. Making the most of the season may help you enjoy it and look forward to it. Those who participate in winter sports such as snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing are able to get out and make the most of the season. If you’re not into sports, you might dust off your guitar or piano keys and learn to play a few holiday songs. If holiday time is more about getting together with friends and family, you might plan a little party this year or volunteer your help to someone else who is planning one. The season is chock-full of holidays that can bring you cheer. Decide to have fun and celebrate.
It may take some conscious effort to power yourself through the winter months happily. As you use a little mindfulness, gratitude, imagination, creativity, and courage, you can turn the winter blues into beautiful memories, and not just for you, but for others around you too.
By Dr. Bradley Nelson