By Denise Tausig, for SparkPeople
For many people, cold weather and a lack of sunshine can bring on a mild depression known as the ''winter blues.'' People that experience the ''winter blues'' will generally lack motivation and energy. Others may even develop a clinical depression in the form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is ''a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.'' Those that experience SAD may produce too much melatonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep and body temperature. Producing too much melatonin disrupts the body's internal clock and may then cause depression, as seen with SAD sufferers.
Some of the signs of SAD may include the following:
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depressed mood
- Weight gain
- Cravings for sweet and starchy foods
If you have any symptoms of SAD, there are ways to help prevent them from continuing or getting worse. Here are some tips to help you prevent and combat the ''winter blues.'' (Of course, if you are experiencing any form of depression, we would also advise you to speak with your doctor.)
Try light therapy. Getting as much light as possible will instantly help boost your mood. Get outside during daylight hours as often as you can, open up your shades, use ''full spectrum'' light bulbs, invest in a specialty light box designed for SAD, and turn on the lights in your house as soon as you can in the morning. Even artificial light helps!
Laugh! This may seem like a simple, yet difficult thing to do, especially if you are feeling depressed. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets! Watch a funny movie, see a comedy show, read an uplifting book, just act silly, or try anything else that never fails to get you chuckling.
Be social. Go out with your friends and do something fun! A lot of times, people with SAD may feel withdrawn, but push yourself to get out there, even if it is for a short time. This can make a huge difference, especially if you surround yourself with people that you enjoy being around.
Brighten up your house. Colors affect our moods, so it may be time to update the colors in your house (even just one room). Try finding some inexpensive bright artwork to hang up on the walls, adding a new paint color, or perking up your living room with some colorful flowers. Giving at least one room in your house an updated look and feel can help improve your mood.
Wear brighter colors. You don't generally find people wearing bright colors during the winter months, but that doesn't mean you can't! Just like updating the colors in your house, updating the colors that you wear can make a difference, too. Instead of wearing dark colors, try wearing something that is brighter to help lift your mood.
Listen to upbeat music. Music can really set the mood for many people. My mood tends to mirror the music that I listen to. Just like upbeat music helps you get through your workout, happy music can help put you in a better mindset. Put on some tunes, let your hair down and boost your mood with some fun music!
Call a friend or family member. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk it out, so pick up the phone and talk with someone you trust (or meet them in person). It will be good for both of you talk and bond, so you're both sure to benefit from talking and listening to one another.
If you can, plan a vacation to a warm and sunny place. After living in the Midwest for a while, I have gotten used to the fact that a lot of people only live here part of the year. Many of them will plan to take vacations (or take a seasonal job) in Florida where it is nice and sunny. But if you live in a colder climate year-round like I do, save up for a vacation--even if it is for a few days--to a warm and sunny place to give you a break from the cold and help you soak in some natural light and vitamin D.
5 Secrets to Winter Health and Energy
The Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Depression Resource Center