According to Psychology Today Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues” affects about 10 million Americans each year. This is when episodes of depression affect individuals roughly the same time of year. Our body’s primary elements of survival are food, water, air and light. In the winter months our days are the shortest, lessening our exposure to natural light. These shorter days can upset our circadian rhythm. The less sunlight we have, the more confused our internal clock can become. For those who suffer from SAD, there are some tools that can help you cope.
First off, this disorder generally occurs because we are simply craving more light. Open the blinds and make a point to sit next to the window more, go outside even if it’s freezing or even sit next to a bright light for 30 minutes a day. Bringing more light into our dark days can make a big difference in seasonal depression. Manufacturers have also come out with “dawn simulators” where the light on the alarm clock gradually brightens to mimic a rising sun and make it easier to get out of bed when the mornings are dark.
Play some happy music and move!! No matter the time of year, it’s important to move your body. Moving for at least 30 minutes a day has been shown to increase mood and lower depressive episodes.
Be mindful of what you eat. When the temps drop, we generally desire hearty warm meals and tend to gravitate towards sweets and lots and lots of carbs. These do allow for a temporary blissful feeling, but in the long run consuming too much of these can lead to heightened anxiety and depression. If you experience SAD, be extra mindful about your sugar and heavy carbohydrate intake during the winter months. Try some chocolate instead! Dark chocolate has been linked to lower levels of anxiety, and is oh so delicious.
Last but not least the Mind-Body Connection! Winter is the time of year where most people will retreat into their shells. This can be super beneficial, as long as you’re doing it in a healthy manner. It is so important to get in touch with yourself on a daily basis, even just for a few moments. Yoga, mediation, qigong and massage are all great tools to tap into you and to see what you and your spirit may need for some lifting.