Do you usually feel happy for most months of the year, and then suddenly, your mood alters? The nasty effects of this change make you feel miserable, fatigued and depressed.
You may not realize, but a mood change usually occurs with a change in weather. If you are having an energy drop during the winter months, then it’s likely that you are suffering from the winter blues.
What Exactly Are the Winter Blues?
With a change in the weather, it’s normal for many of us to suffer from severe mood swings. During the winter, the days become shorter, so darkness is in full force. Most areas have a severe shortage of sunshine; therefore, many people feel unmotivated and oftentimes, exhausted.
Winter depression affects more than six percent of the Americans each year; this causes them a great deal of anguish and trouble, both at home and within the work place. A person afflicted with such a change during winter months is said to be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some individuals are only mildly affected, while others may experience overpowering negative effects on their daily lives.
Even though SAD can affect anyone, it is more prominent in young people and women. Winter blues usually commence around the age of 20. They start to decrease around the age of 50. It is imperative to learn ways to deal with these depressive thoughts, but first, let’s talk about the symptoms.
Winter Depression: The Symptoms
To be more concise, SAD is a depressive disorder due to the seasonal variations of light. It is a sort of mental disorder that affects individuals with stable mental health during the winter. The symptoms of SAD include many of the common symptoms of depression.
During the winter months, affected individuals suffer from the following symptoms:
- Occasional Bouts of Desolation
- Loss of Appetite
- Low Moods
- Lack of Sleep
- Failure to Find Happiness from Social Events
- Difficulty Waking Up in the Morning
- Drop in Energy Levels
- Suicidal Thoughts in Extreme Cases
- Cravings for Foods High in Carbohydrates
Individuals may begin feeling slothful and start to lose interest in their everyday activities. They might have difficulty concentrating and processing information. Furthermore, people may find themselves feeing increasingly short-tempered and helpless. They may also have feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Symptoms of SAD are most noticeable in January and February when the days are shortest. It is important to understand that such people tend to have stable mental health during the rest of the season.
If you think you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder, you need to understand the causes and treatments.
So, What Causes the Winter Blues?
With the changes in seasons, sunlight pattern changes occur, which in response shift our biological clocks. This shift could make a few of us fall out of step with our daily activities. Individuals experiencing winter blues have a tough time acclimating to the scarcity of sunlight in the winter months.
Melatonin is a sleep-related hormone that works as your biological clock that shares a connection with the winter blues. It is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, and is believed to cause the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The secretion of this hormone increases in the dark. Thus, during winters when the days are shorter and darker, the level of melatonin increases and depressive thoughts can surface.
A lack of sunlight reduces the amount of vitamin D in your body, as well. When you don’t expose your body to the direct rays of the sun because of less sunlight and harsh chilly days, it is unable to secrete adequate amounts of vitamin D. Therefore, being outdoors and receiving enough sunlight is just one of the many ways to deal with winter depression.
Tips for Beating the Winter Blues
Winter melancholy can make your life miserable, but the good news is, numerous tips and treatment options are available.
1. Light Therapy: The Single Most Effective Treatment
Light therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for many people dealing with winter blues. It allows the brain to receive adequate light.
This minimizes the hormone, melatonin and increase the hormone, serotonin, as well as other important neurotransmitters in the brain. Light therapy works the same way that antidepressants do.
Light therapy involves everyday exposure to high-intensity light that stabilizes chemicals contained in the brain and regulates body rhythms. The regulation of rhythms relieves the symptoms of SAD. Scientists have found that people dealing with winter blues have circadian rhythms that are out of whack. You should be aware that circadian rhythms are responsible for stabilizing moods and maintaining energy levels.
Most doctors recommend full-spectrum light therapy for early and quick relief. Full spectrum light consists of ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. These generalized lights help to increase energy levels of SAD patients and improve both their welfare and moods within just a few days.
Doctors even provide light boxes to the user with a bright light that triggers natural sunlight. These light boxes can be used for sleep disorders and jet lag, as well as skin conditions and more. You can even make your own light box by using fluorescent lights or even standard bulbs. Isn’t it a budget-friendly option?
2. Get Lots of Fresh Air and Sunlight
If you don’t have enough money to buy light therapy, or the time to make your own light box, don’t despair. You can have the advantage of free light therapy by going outside in the sun.
Just fifteen to thirty minutes daily should help, but you should get outdoors before noon. Remember to keep your sunglasses away. Your eyes need some sun, too.
Besides, if there is no sun during the day, then no need to worry. You receive the benefits, even during the cloudy days. And, if you are adamant to find the light, go on a brisk walk when the sun is glowing off the snow.
Sunlight is one such crucial element that helps to get rid of the symptoms of winter depression. We get natural vitamin D when our body is exposed to sunrays. Vitamin D is good for your mind and your overall health. So, what are you waiting for? Relax under the sun with your morning brew and a latest fashion magazine.
3. Daily Exercise is Good for Your Body, and Your Mind, Too
A depressed mind makes you miserable, as well as exhausted, tired and unmotivated. This happens because of the increased amount of melatonin, combined with the lack of serotonin in the brain. Most people know daily exercise is the way to keep you fit and healthy. But did you know that exercise also has the tendency to naturally boost your melancholy mood by increasing the secretion of the hormone, serotonin?
Furthermore, exercise can regulate your appetite and help to shed those stubborn pounds that may also contribute to your depressive mood.
What’s more, fitting into your sexiest clothes is definitely a mood booster that will make you feel happy and better about yourself. This also give you the confidence and energy to go out and spend some quality time with your friends and family.
Yes, we know that it’s quite a task to become motivated to exercise when you are feeling stressed, but let us tell you, it’s worth the effort. Even simple exercises, such as walking or running can make a huge difference in your health and mood. However, make sure that the activity you chose is something you enjoy as this will help you to stick to it for a longer time.
You can even look for a buddy for that needed spur, enthusiasm, and support. Change it up to keep things interesting by walking in various locations or trying something new, like bicycling or swimming.
4. Meet Up With Your Family And Friends
Getting together with your family, friends, co-workers, and mentors is a potent way to lift your sulky mood. Try to come up with ideas that can help you plan a get-together with your peers. The only purpose of social gatherings is to avoid feeling isolated.
Yes, we know when you are suffering from winter depression, the last thing you feel like doing is getting out of your cozy atmosphere. However, even if you don’t like it, force yourself to get up and meet with people as often as you possibly can.
If that’s really not possible, try throwing a Winter Doldrums Party. Invite your friends over to your place to share a movie or a few cocktails. You will definitely find yourself in high spirits and a better frame of mind. Well, just a warning here: avoid inviting people who are faultfinders or low-spirited.
5. Eat Lots of Happy Foods
Consuming a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits and green veggies is yet another nourishing way to fight off those depressive moods. Try consuming healthier carbs, rather than simple carbs. You should avoid consuming non-complex carbs, as they provide negligible benefits and add unwanted pounds.
Include food products high in protein, such as eggs, turkey, chicken, lean beef, beans and dairy products. Turkey is a great food for reducing depression, since it is high in tryptophan. This amino acid encourages the secretion of serotonin. And, we all know that serotonin is a mood-enhancing hormone.
Besides, add nourishing snacks two to three times per day, but make sure they are lower in calories. Popcorn, apples, carrots and dried fruits are some of the snacks that can keep you feeling full for many hours.
Water is an essential part of your diet. You may be surprised to learn, but dehydration is one of the causes of depression in many people, and, why not? More than eighty-five percent of our brain tissue is composed of water. Ditch carbonated beverages, sodas, caffeinated drinks and ready-made juices. Instead, drink clean, pure and fresh water each day, and lots of it.
Start eating healthy today to feel better tomorrow. The right nourishment can cause vast improvements in your physical, as well as mental health.
6. Negative Air Ionization Creates Positive Feelings
Wondering what this is? Yes, this term seems confusing to many of us. However, if you try recalling your days in middle school science, you will definitely remember the term negative ions.
Negative ions are those that have an extra negatively charged particle. Experts believe that negative ions are most prominent in the summer and can enhance your mood.
You can use an electrical ionizer machine that mimics summer air to fight the winter blues. Even though the name seems complicated, it’s completely hassle free to use this device. You just need to set a timer to switch the box on for at least an hour and a half before getting up from bed. Scientists have found that negative air ionization during sleep helps improve SAD symptoms up to 50 percent.
7. Cognitive Therapy Can Help, Too
When you are depressed, you feel negatively about yourself, the people around you, as well as your future. You may believe that you have always felt this way, and you might even feel that you deserve to feel this way. Although it seems quite perturbing, there’s hope.
If you are dealing with symptoms of SAD, try to tell yourself now and again that such negative feelings are temporary and soon, you will be your own happy self again. You can remind yourself by repeating that you are facing an illness that many people have, but there are things you can do to feel better. And, it will go away with the advent of spring.
Being conscientious of your moods and taking extra steps when winter arrives is an effective step to feeling better. When you take action in a positive direction, you’ll definitely feel better. Taking some time to journal about your life helps in relieving the winter blues from your mind. too.
8. Don’t Forget to Take Your Vitamins and Supplements
Experts suggest taking the “sunshine vitamin,” or Vitamin D, can combat the effects of the winter blues. Women with symptoms of depression are often low in vitamin D; thus, receiving enough of this nutrient helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
Vitamin D not only takes away your blues, but it also improves bone, breast and colon health. Other natural supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, and fish oil also help women suffering from depression. Cod liver oil is equally effective, since it is rich in vitamin D.
9. Look for Fun And Enjoyable Activities In the Winter
You can look for wintertime activities that keep you happy and busy. Activities such ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, running, and even just walking can pump up your mood. They also enhance your “happy hormones,” and keep you active. If you don’t feel like participating in outdoor exercise, go to your indoor mall and walk around while window shopping.
If you feel like working indoors, find a place at your home that is filled with sunlight or get that sun lamp going. Spend a few indulgent hours there, and engage in your favorite hobbies such as crafts, painting or sewing.
Grab a good book or watch a lighthearted movie. Don’t gather your stuff every time you leave the place. Let it be there, so that you can return back to the room without having to set all the things up again.
If you feel yourself sinking in the dark during those gloomy wintery days, don’t feel dejected. Even a small change in your routine can help. With the right tips, a little planning and a bit of effort, you can avoid feeling depressed and enjoy this winter.
If you’ve tried all these tips and you still feel depressed, or worse – suicidal, contact your doctor immediately. You deserve to feel happy all year long, but don’t worry, spring is right around the corner.