Hello, sunshine: Tips for beating winter blues

Feeling blue? Grey, wet, winter weather might be taking a toll on your mood.

Poor motivation, fatigue, and feelings of despair are symptoms of a condition called seasonal affective disorder. This condition is common during the darker winter months. Experts believe it affects up to 20 percent of the population and is four times as common in women than in men. While it has similar symptoms to depression, the major difference is that seasonal affective disorder goes away once spring comes and the sun comes out.

If you’re feeling the lack of motivation, tiredness, or sadness during this dreary winter weather, here are some ways to combat it:

Watch your diet.
While the dark weather may have you craving more comfort foods, fight the urge! Instead of those white carbs in pastas, sweet pastries, or potatoes, lean into the healthier options of whole grains, low-fat proteins like poultry, fish, and eggs, as well as lots of fruit and vegetables. Some studies suggest that omega-3 acids found in salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds also help boost your mood. You’ll notice that the same healthy diet that’s recommended at other times of the year also helps combat the winter blues.

Stay active.
Yes, exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do, but a regular routine of moderate exercise is one of the best ways to combat seasonal affective disorder. Rhythmic forms of exercise like walking, jogging, dancing, biking, or jumping rope can put you in a meditative state. This can help reduce stress — a critical part of boosting your mood.

Stay connected.
The dreary weather may be keeping you inside, but staying connected and getting out to see friends is another effective way to combat seasonal affective disorder. In addition to maintaining those relationships, reward your mind with pleasant indoor activities like knitting, coloring, reading, or journaling.

Try light therapy.
The lack of sunshine causes a shortage of Vitamin D and decreases serotonin levels, the chemical that helps regulate mood. Sitting under a light box for 15-30 minutes at a time, though, can help counter the lack of sunshine and boost your mood. While you can purchase one over the counter, you may want to consult your doctor before using one.

Talk to your doctor.
If these tactics don’t help, or if you’re having severe symptoms like strong feelings of helplessness or worthlessness, it is important to talk with your doctor. She may recommend cognitive therapy or prescribe antidepressant drugs that can help with the condition.

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