Every winter, the usual ups and downs of life somehow become more powerful. Coping with everyday cold weather disappointments (a sick kid, a car that won't start, fewer play dates, frozen pipes) can really take a toll on your mood. Seasonal depression remedies can't melt the ice outdoors, but remedies may help melt your frosty outlook during the winter.
Turns out, winter blues are no joke. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), seasonal depression is called "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD). People who are at the highest risk for SAD include women, folks who live in darker climates far from the equator, and people who have already experienced depression or mental health issues. The good news? There are many ways to treat the winter blues. And no, they're not all positivity tricks like simply "counting your blessings."
Here are five very practical ways you can brighten up your life when the sun hides behind the clouds.
1. Light Therapy
Sadly, when the sun does shine in winter, it's often way too cold to go outside and soak it up. But you can find a south-facing window and take advantage of the sun's low zenith this time of year by sitting in the light's rays for about five minutes at a time.
For indirect light, I switch out my heavy full-length curtains for lower half window treatments that still allow plenty of light. The compromise allows us to keep our privacy without compromising the healthy benefits of the sunshine.
Talk with your doctor about light therapy, which may help combat the winter blues, notes the Mayo Clinic. It's a natural, noninvasive way to absorb rays without a potentially harmful tanning bed visit.
2. Switch Up Your Artwork
When the holiday decorations are all packed away, your space may look a little blah. Use this as an opportunity to showcase the pictures, paintings, and decor you love most. Photos of my favorite smiling relatives (and our hilarious, mood-boosting shenanigans) go up in January, and every time I look at them I smile. Another favorite go-to is a collage of pictures I snapped on the beach during an especially memorable summer vacation.
3. Combine Therapies
According to art and healing group facilitator and researcher Ana Gachero, art therapy is incredibly effective for emotional healing and mental health. She recommends creating an appreciation collage, a hodgepodge collection of all the things you're thankful for or items to remind you of your favorite parts of life. Not only can the self-expressive exercise improve your mood, it can also serve as another piece of meaningful visual decor.
As one of the seasonal depression remedies, experts preach the benefits of exercise. The only problem is that a symptom of SAD is lethargy, so you may feel even less like working out than usual. Some people benefit from working out with a group, or even partnering with a friend so you can help drag each other out of the house.
My advice? Skip the treadmill and take an online aerobics dance class like Zumba or Bokwa. The music is catchy, and the steps are just challenging enough to engage the mind as well as the muscles.
5. Join or Build a Community
You're not the only one whose winter blues get the upper hand. One of the best ways to deal with seasonal affective disorder is to talk with others who are going through the same thing. There's nothing quite like a daily visual check-in with peers who have your best interest at heart. Online communities like the SAD gathering on supportgroups.com let you discuss how you're feeling each day, and why. Since that group has nearly 30,000 members, you can admit you're struggling, and usually you're met with a chorus of support in response.
Introverts who are overwhelmed with the thought of joining that many people can start a small, tight-knit group of their own. The online group at 18Percent has about 50 people in it, and the host always seems to know just what to say.
Remember, major depression does not usually follow a weather pattern the same way seasonal affective disorder does. In other words, if your symptoms stick around despite these tips (and the arrival of warm weather), seek professional help right away.
What are your favorite ways of beating winter blues, SAD or otherwise? Share your experiences with your friends and neighbors, and help lift each other up all winter long.
Image source: Ivana Cajina via Unsplash | Bethany Johnson
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