Also called seasonal affective disorder or SAD, the “winter blues” is a type of depression that typically coincides with seasonal changes beginning the late fall or early winter. This is a common condition that affects an estimated 10 million Americans and is more likely in women than men.
While you should seek help from a medical professional if you are experiencing severe symptoms or thoughts of self harm or suicide, there are also some things you can do on your own to help combat the winter blues.
1. Try Light Therapy
Pittsburgh winters can be a bit on the dreary side, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get some fresh air and sunshine. Talk a walk outside on sunny days in the winter, or consider purchasing a light therapy lamp to use indoors during those particularly dreary stretches of weather.
2. Focus on Fresh Foods
Stocking up on comfort foods that are full of carbs and sugars can make you feel more tired and sluggish, making matters worse. Instead, try to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to give your body the energy it needs to power through the cold winter.
As an added bonus, a diet that’s centered on fresh produce and whole grains can help you to reach your weight loss and fitness goals.
3. Get Regular Exercise
Getting up and moving might be the last thing you feel like doing in the wintertime, but regular exercise is one of the best ways to beat seasonal depression. But you also don’t want to exercise so much that it begins to negatively affect your mental health.
According to researchers, exercising 30 to 60 minutes three to five times per week is the sweet spot that benefits both your body and your mind.
4. Aim for 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep Each Night
Like exercise, there’s a sweet spot for the amount of sleep you should get in order to maximize your mental and physical health. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night – not much more and not much less.
5. Don’t Isolate Yourself Socially
You might feel like hibernating by yourself at home all winter long, but this can be detrimental to your mental health, especially if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or grab a cup of coffee with an old friend to help keep seasonal affective disorder symptoms at bay.
6. Spend Time by the Fire
No, really. Kick back your feet, grab a warm cup of tea, and enjoy the crackling sounds and calming warmth of your fireplace. A 2014 study found that these qualities of a hearth or campfire induce relaxation and can therefore be beneficial to your overall mental health.
7. Practice Relaxation Techniques
The holiday season can be busy and stressful. Combine this with shorter days and cold winter weather, and this can spell disaster for your mental – and physical – health. Try to decompress by using techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, listening to calming music, or trying aromatherapy.