Some people look forward to the fall and winter months when leaves turn brilliant colors, the air gets cooler and cozy sweaters come out of storage. But for others this change of season can bring the winter blues, especially after the holidays when gray skies and dreary weather seem to drag on forever. Many people feel sluggish or grumpy in the winter — after all, it's freezing out there. Fortunately it doesn't take much to fight seasonal blues and blahs. A few minor lifestyle adjustments may be just what the doctor ordered.
Let the light shine in
Pull back the shades and let sunlight stream in to naturally enhance your mood. Studies have shown that light increases serotonin levels, which in turn gives you an energy boost. Another way to increase serotonin is through exercise and healthy eating habits. Regardless of the season, good physical health can have a positive impact on mental and emotional well-being.
Fly the coop
If you can afford a vacation, get away to a warmer clime for a few days and come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Or, plan an afternoon trip to a spa for a massage or manicure, or get out for a fun evening with friends. Any activity that lifts you out of a rut, even for a few hours, can help brighten your outlook.
Embrace the season
If your heart sinks when you see a blanket of snow on the ground (especially if you have to commute in the stuff), try looking at it instead as an opportunity for fun and frolic. Go cross-country or downhill skiing, grab your skates and head to an outdoor rink or take your kids sledding. Outdoor activity on a cold winter day is exhilarating and invigorating, especially when you come home to a cup of hot chocolate and a warm fire, or soak in a hot bath afterward.
Turning SAD feelings around
There is a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that's more than a case of the winter blues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists it as a seasonally triggered form of depression. The good news is that it is treatable with light therapy, medication or counseling.
People with SAD have symptoms that can interfere with their daily lives, such as:
- weight gain or loss
- decreased energy
- suicidal thoughts
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, between four and six percent of people have SAD and another 10 to 20 percent have a milder version of the disorder. Mood slumps, which are the main symptom, typically begin in late fall and dissipate around March or April.
If you suspect you may be suffering from SAD, the Mayo Clinic suggests simple remedies like those listed above to improve your mood.
For more information on SAD, visit these sites:
With the proper combination of lifestyle changes and therapies (in more serious cases), you can successfully fight the winter blues.