As the days get shorter and colder, some people start to feel of sense of dread or sadness. It’s normal to feel a little down on occasion during the winter if you live for warmer weather, but a looming general sadness during the fall and winter is not normal. If that sadness is accompanied by depleted energy levels, lack of motivation, binge-eating, or spending all your time indoors, you may have seasonal depression.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly occurs during late fall and winter, when there’s less sunlight. Longer periods of darkness in combination with colder weather and overcast skies can drain the body of energy. It’s quite common for seasonal depression to cause mood swings and it’s not something to ignore. Often times, people dismiss these feelings, but that may only worsen the symptoms.
What Causes Seasonal Depression?
Experts agree that there is no primary cause of seasonal depression. Several factors may contribute to the development, though. One common theory is that the reduced amount of sunlight disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock. This can lead to depression, and may even cause stress from irregular sleep schedule. Another theory is that serotonin levels decrease during the colder months. Serotonin levels drop as a result of reduced exposure to sunlight, and that can trigger depression.
There are millions of people who experience seasonal depression, especially in colder climates that have darker days. You don’t have to live with seasonal depression, and we hope you can fight back against it with these five strategies.
Prioritize Social Activities
Many psychiatrists agree that it’s beneficial to fill up your calendar with social and enjoyable activities during the winter. If a running group isn’t for you, consider joining a book club, writing group, or even language class. Several studies confirm that depression symptoms will likely worsen in an isolated setting. That’s one of the reasons that there were higher rates of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it’s cold outside, find creative ways to stay connected with people. Coordinate dinners with friends and families, go on walks in a local park, or have a movie night.
Try Out An Exercise Program
Exercise does wonders for your mental health. According to research, people with higher levels of physical activity experience fewer symptoms of depression. Movement counteracts the sluggish behavior that comes with depression. Getting the body going produces positive brain chemistry, no matter if you’re inside or outside. Since the weather is cold, outdoor exercise may not be desirable. Consider indoor activities like yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, spin, or light weightlifting. You can also boost mental health by venturing out in nature to ski, snowboard, or engage in other winter activities.
Light therapy, or phototherapy, may be an effective treatment option for people with intense seasonal depression. The therapy involves sitting a few feet from a special light box within the first hour of waking up every day. The exposure to bright light in the morning mimics natural outdoor light that you may not have during the winter. Studies found that light therapy changes brain chemicals and starts working within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of seasonal depression. Before you purchase a light box, speak with your doctor about the right one for you. They’ll be able to inform you about a variety of options that can help improve your symptoms.
Get Enough Vitamin D
When the weather is gloomy and the days are shorter, it’s quite common to experience low levels of vitamin D. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) claims that low vitamin D levels are common among people with seasonal depression. If you plan to take a vitamin D supplement, it’s best to speak with a doctor or nutritionist to find out which dose is right for you. While there are foods that contain vitamin D, it’s often easier to take a supplement. Upping your vitamin D intake may be exactly what you need to cure those winter blues.
Meditation And Mantra
Meditation is a powerful practice that can positively influence the mind. Several scientific studies found that it helps to boost emotional health. In order to combat feelings of seasonal depression, it’s often best to visualize certain settings during a meditation session. Picturing sunlight, tropical beaches, and other summery settings may reduce symptoms. In addition to daily meditation, which may only take 10 minutes, it can be beneficial to accompany it with a winter mantra. Developing a mantra may promote positivity through the fall and winter. Don’t wish to be out of the present moment; rather, embrace the present so you aren’t longing for summer. This type of negative thinking can increase symptoms of seasonal depression.