You wake when it’s dark and by the time dinner is ready, it’s dark once again. Sound familiar?
The days are short right now. So very short.
Thankfully, now that Winter Solstice has passed, they’re getting a little longer as we work our way toward spring. Still, the darkness and dreariness can be overwhelming this time of year.
In fact, this winter weather can be downright depressing! With days that offer less than nine hours of light, many of which are clouded, by, well, clouds, it's important to be proactive in curbing the ever-looming seasonal depression.
Now, seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is one of those terms that can be tossed around lightly. In truth, any kind of depression is always a serious topic and if you sense you might be experiencing depression, it’s important to get help.
Seasonal depression is unique in that it is cyclical, beginning at the same time each year, usually around October, and continuing through the dark months. It lifts when the days lengthen and the sun begins to shine once again. Is this you? Are you weary and lackluster in the fall and winter? Is summer your preferred time of year?
Seasonal depression can range from a light case of winter blues to true, diagnosed depression best treated with medication and other therapies. No matter where you might fall on the spectrum, it’s important to be self-aware and curb seasonal depression before it gets the best of you - you deserve to feel the sun shine even in winter!
Here are some ideas to ward off SAD and stay on the up and up throughout these gloomy PNW months:
#1 Get fresh air
Breathe deep and let the cold air fill your lungs. It might take some bundling up, but getting up and out is good for the body, mind, and soul.
#2 Be intentional with your lunch break
With so little daylight, don’t spend your lunch hour hidden indoors! Grab that umbrella and stroll outside a little if you can.
#3 Try light therapy
Light boxes step in with artificial “sun” as a great way to curb seasonal depression. It does take daily commitment though. Look for a light therapy box with 10,000-lux and plan to spend 20-30 minutes beside it each day for maximum results.
#4 Add a dose of vitamin D
Your vitamin D levels can plummet in the winter because vitamin D enters your body when bare skin is exposed to the sun which doesn’t happen much this time of year. So, chat with your health provider about an appropriate dose of a vitamin D supplement.
#5 Take a vacation
Let a vacation to a warm, bright place be your winter pick me up! Not only will the excitement and preparation for a vacation lighten your mood, the sun you’ll soak up will do wonders as well!
#6 Add exercise into your schedule
Exercise naturally boost endorphins and in simple terms, those endorphins tell our brain that we’re happy. So, even though it’s hard to kick into gear when it’s cold and we’re already feeling down, making a habit of a quick jog or a gym class can be beneficial.
#7 Begin a gratitude journal
It’s easy to fall into the grey and glum. I’ve found that tracking what I’m thankful for, rather than lamenting the season and other hardships, helps keep my perspective fresh and positive. Grab a notebook or start a draft in the Notes section of your phone and tally up a few things you’re grateful for right now!
Of course, all of these recommendations should be coupled with care from a doctor well-versed in mental health. Advocate for yourself by seeking help for seasonal depression and before you know it, summer will be here once again!