Every year, it happens. The temperature cools all the way down, the days become shorter and darker. Plans and our willingness to be out and about start to wean. And that sometimes ominous but heavy feeling of dread can overcome us. A lot of us actually. Studies show that roughly 14 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), better known as seasonal depression.
The change in seasons and the darkness that we’re faced with during the winter months play a strong role in our mental wellbeing. It can leave us feeling depressed, anxious, sluggish, and unmotivated. Although you may just want to hibernate in the comfort of your bed until it’s over, this is actually the worst thing you could do for seasonal depression. And let’s face it, although I wish it was accessible for everyone, we don’t all have the option to see a therapist during this time. The key is to stay active and fuel your senses. There are small actions you can take in your daily life to make the darker months more bearable.
With daylight savings just around the corner, here are some simple, yet effective, methods for coping with seasonal depression:
1. Let There Be Light
One of the main sources of seasonal depression is the lack of light, and our tendency to be cooped up indoors without natural sunlight. To combat that, a number of brands have created sunrise simulation lights that can help make your mornings less painful. These lights simulate the sunrise in that they gradually get brighter so you aren’t jolted out of your sleep. When we wake up in the dark we can feel a little loopy or jet-lagged, and sunrise lamps can help alleviate this tiredness.
There are also light therapy lamps that you can keep near you throughout the day. These also simulate sunlight while filtering out UV rays to protect your eyes in the process.
Here are some options:
Wake-Up Light LBell Alarm Clock ($39.55)
2. Get Moving
Summer bodies are made in the winter, yeah yeah. In all honesty, we tend to work out a lot less in the colder months, so it’s important to try to incorporate activities that get the blood flowing into each day.
If you can’t make it to the gym, simple routines such as a good arm and backstretch first thing in the morning and periodically throughout the day go a long way.
It’s also important to get some fresh air. Taking a 5 – 10 minute walk outside instead of, or before, having lunch at your desk is a great way to help alleviate stress. It’ll also set you up for a more productive afternoon.
3. Take Time to Be Intentional
Sometimes the winter slowdown is a good thing. It helps us to pause, reflect and become more mindful. Use this time intentionally to refocus and renew for the new year. Practice meditation or simply sitting with your thoughts and feelings. Write down your goals and desires, notice how they’ve evolved or changed and what truly matters to you. When we take time to look inward, it sets us up for a more fulfilling outward life.
4. Pick-up A Winter Friendly Hobby
This may not be the time to join a flag football league or a running club, but you can look into indoor activities that bring you joy. Perhaps that’s starting or joining a book club, indoor fitness class, trying new recipes each week, visiting more museums, or plays at your local theater. Not only are these enjoyable at the moment, but they give you something to look forward to in the meantime.
5. Take a Trip
This doesn’t have to be overseas or even in another state. A change of scenery, even for a weekend, can help you feel more refreshed and less stressed. Last winter, some friends and I drove 2-hours to the Poconos a quick weekend getaway. Although we spent most of the time snowed in, it was nice to be together playing games, dancing, eating, and drinking. It helped physically and mentally remove us from the day to day stressors.
So, whether it’s a quick flight to someplace warm and luxurious like Miami, or a weekend drive to a snowcapped mountain, the novelty of something new is a great way to help with seasonal depression.
6. Lean on Those Around You
Trust me, I get it. When it’s cold outside, I don’t want to go anywhere either. Especially now that I live farther away from my friends then I used to. However, there’s strength in numbers, and as humans, we thrive off of connection. So, it’s important to prioritize seeing your friends, family, and loved ones. And it doesn’t have to be a grand outing. Simply inviting people over for wine and a movie, or meeting up for some coffee before heading home for your commute can go a long way. Connecting with people we care about, if only for 30-minutes, can help boost our morale. And after all, you never know who else may need a pick-me-up.