6 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Posted by Brittany Sales
With the days getting colder and the nights getting longer, it is common for many of us to experience changes in feelings of mood and behaviour along with shifting seasonal changes. In fact, many of us living at latitudes in which we experience incrementally diminished daylight feel the “winter blues” and may develop seasonal affective disorder without even realizing it!
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects millions of people every year, two-thirds of whom are women. With diminished daylight causing light deprivation, those with SAD experience changes in mood and behaviour which can affect sleeping, eating, and energy patterns. It makes sense that on the cold, dark days of winter we should want to huddle inside and sleep more, eat more, and exercise less. People with SAD may feel low in energy and fatigued, despite oversleeping, and may experience appetite changes and cravings for carbohydrates and sugar triggering overeating. Symptoms of SAD may also include irritability, loss of pleasure and energy, crying spells, concentration problems, weight gain, feelings of worthlessness, social withdrawal, and low thoughts.
Although many of us will feel this way, the good news is there are numerous effective ways to both protect yourself from the winter blues and to help feel better if you are feeling SAD. Here are 6 tips to help you beat the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder:
1. Purposeful Physical Activity: Even if you are unable to hit the gym, it is so important to engage in purposeful physical activity – and yes, that means exercise. Putting energy into your physical self is crucial for mental health. Exercise is a proven depression buster as it not only improves our mood and energy, but helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Even just 15 minutes of purposeful active movement a few times a week will be enough for you to spot a difference – just try it! Don’t let cold weather make you miss out on regular physical activity and those mood-enhancing endorphins!
2. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): TCM understands illness as affecting both the mind and body, with the two being inseparably linked. If the mind is emotionally disturbed, physical symptoms are evoked and vice versa for physical disorders evoking emotional responses. A TCM practitioner is trained to identify these patterns of disharmony in order to bring the body back into balance and restore harmony. Whole Family Health offers a comprehensive set of services to help create optimal health and well-being for those feeling the more persistent symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, such as:
- Acupuncture: There is strong clinical evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of depression. By increasing the release of ACTH, beta-endorphins, serotonin, and noradrenaline acupuncture treatments help relax and promote natural healing of the body – something we all need, especially if feeling SAD!
- Naturopathic Medicine: Together with a naturopathic doctor you can create a highly effective comprehensive, individualized treatment plan designed to prevent and treat SAD with natural remedies and therapies. This might include a regimen of herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, light-therapy, or mind-body techniques.
- Chinese Herbal Medicine: In conjunction with acupuncture, Chinese Herbal remedies are highly successful in regulating the endocrine system and restoring balance in the body, using specialized formulas specifically tailored for each individual case.
- Massage Therapy: On top of feeling great (who doesn’t love a massage?!), massage therapy is also effective in reducing stress and helping to improve total body function and decreases the release of damaging stress hormones that negatively contribute to our mental and physical health.
3. Light Therapy: Exposing yourself to natural light, or to artificial light like sunlamps, is highly effective for relieving symptoms of SAD. If you can, get outside for even a few minutes to expose yourself to natural sunlight – otherwise invest in a light box, sunlamp, or hit up an infrared sauna to ‘lighten up’- it seriously makes a difference!
4. Eat Healthy Foods: Proper nutrition is vital to our mental health, so instead of reaching for high carbohydrate and sugar loaded foods try to include tons of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and complex carbohydrates in your diet to ensure you get the right kind of energy.
5. Social Support: Sure, being a hermit may seem easier but socializing and engaging with a community of people you enjoy being around is extremely healthy and stimulating. A good time with good friends always soothes the soul, so don’t let winter make you miss out on great relationship building opportunities.
6. Engage in a Hobby: Spend some time with yourself and engage in new interests or hobbies you love. Hobbies give you something to concentrate on and look forward to while helping you stay active and productive.
Because individuals are impacted by SAD differently, keep in mind that what works for one person may not for another – the important thing to remember if you are feeling SAD is to not give up and keep on trying to find what makes you feel better! You deserve to be happy, healthy, and productive – even in the gloomy winter months!
If you are seeking relief from the winter blues and SAD, please contact us to book a consultation; you don’t need to feel this way and we can help!