How To Avoid The Winter Blues

As we’re approaching the shortest day of the year many of us are fighting depression because of lack of sunlight. Symptoms may include anything from feeling gloomy to full-blown depression. Most SAD sufferers lose interest in regular social activities they enjoyed when there were more daylight hours. However, you don’t have to give in to the “winter time blues”, or what’s called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Here are some helpful tips to prevent SAD from stealing your joy.

Exercise—Tip #1 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

1. Get off the couch and move! That's the first step you should take when you feel yourself getting down during the winter cold and darkness. If it's too cold to walk outside, just walk in your house for 30 minutes. Set a timer, turn on your favorite TV show or radio program to keep your mind occupied and walk until the timer goes off.

2. Use a treadmill. If you don't already own one, they're really not that costly. In fact you're sure to find one on special at either an early-morning pre-Christmas or after Christmas sales. Or, If you do have a treadmill or exercise bike, dust it off and start moving. No only will you burn calories, but your endorphins will kick in, improving your mood. Also, why not walk at a local indoor mall where you can see others walking, as well as find a walking buddy or join an existing group that walks regularly at the mall.

3. Join a gym. Look for fitness centers that offer discounts if you think it's not in your budget. Surprisingly, many athletic and fitness centers regularly offer specials, as well as discounts for bringing in new members.

Use Light Therapy—Tip #2 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Using light therapy to treat SAD is a highly effective. First, try sitting near a sunny window or if you have a sunroom, spend most of your time in there. I remember how just sitting in our Connecticut sunroom used to cheer me up when we first moved from Florida to New England. Even on a frigid, snowy day, all I had to do was spend time in the sunroom and my spirits were lifted.

However, if you have a bad case of SAD, you may need to take further steps as in many cases, ordinary light bulbs are not strong enough to work. However, there are varieties of commercial lightboxes you can buy that are effectual. Sit about two to three feet from a specially designed lightbox for about 30 minutes to an hour each day. After about three or four days, you should see results. You don’t’ have to just sit, but can carry on with daily activities such as reading, needlework, and other hobbies and chores (just so you’re close enough to the lightbox.)

Cut Back on Carbs—Tip #3 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you’re struggling with SAD, chances are you’re both craving and eating more carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this only leads to more problems, as you become tired and grow even more depressed because of a winter weight gain. But by disciplining yourself to eat more protein and less carbs (include only the good ones such as fresh fruits, whole grains, whole wheat breads), you’ll feel better, both physically and emotionally. A good idea is to clear your house of bad carbs (You know the ones—cookies, cakes, sugars, chips, white flour products, etc.) Winter is an excellent time to join a weight loss program, such as Weight Watchers, where you’ll not only learn how to eat healthier, but get moral support for your goal of losing weight.

Decide to Enjoy Winter—Tip #4 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Finally, think of ways to enjoy winter. Instead of counting the days until spring arrives, think of fun winter activities. Learn to ski, snowboard, or ice skate. Or, just have fun with your kids making a snowman. It just may be that winter could become one of your favorite seasons.