Well, as painful as it may be to admit, summer is finally over. Although autumn officially began way back on September 21st, many of us have been lucky enough to enjoy a few bonus weeks of warm weather and sunshine. But as the days grow noticeably shorter and cooler we will have to face the facts. Whether winter in your neck of the woods means shoveling snow or weeks of fog and drizzle, the thought of changing seasons can seem like a bit of a downer. That is especially true if you are part of the 10% of the US population who experiences some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While only one or two percent of people experience symptoms severe enough to warrant medical care, there are a lot of people who feel a milder form of the winter blues. However, just because winter is coming doesn’t mean it has to impact your mood. Try out these 5 tips to keep you smiling all winter long.
1. Get Outside
SAD is primarily caused by a lack of light making its way through your retinas and stimulating your brain. Although it may seem like a grey wintery day doesn’t offer much assistance in that department even the gloomiest of days provide a light intensity of over 20,000 lux. Considering that mood generally begins to suffer when light levels fall below 2500 lux, getting outside is the best and most effective way to avoid getting down in the dumps. Winter offers lots of great recreation opportunities from snowshoeing to skiing to sledding, so get outside every chance you have
2. Vent to Friends
You don’t want to be “that guy/girl” who is always complaining about the weather but research has shown that talking therapy can be just as effective as light therapy in treating SAD. So why not find some like-minded friends and create a mini support group. Get together once a week to play board games and share a plate of cheese to go with all the whining you will do about the weather. Sometimes it is just nice to know that other people are going through the same thing as you.
3. Break a Sweat
When you are feeling blue the last thing you often want to do is exercise, but it is usually the best thing for you. Working out for 30 minutes a day can release enough positive neurotransmitters to cancel out any negative effect the weather might be having on your mood. The runner’s high is real, so use it to your advantage. On top of the self-medicating effect it has on your brain chemistry, exercise will boost your confidence and keep you coming back for more even on the darkest days of the year.
If you’re going to be hitting the gym you have to keep your energy up with lots of complex carbohydrates (found in fruits, grains, potatoes etc.). Fortunately for you, those foods alone have been shown to offer your brain a boost in the fight against SAD. Carbohydrate rich foods can increase levels of serotonin (one of those positive neurotransmitters) just enough to keep you chipper and motivated to make the most of the day. Make yourself a hearty vegetable stew with potatoes and whole grain pasta. It’s the perfect meal for a cold, gloomy winter day.
5. Lighten Up
If all else fails, brighten up your home with a light-box. While normal household lamps give off light intensities of between 200 and 500 lux, certified light-boxes emit light in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 lux. It may take some getting used to, but therapy lamps like this one are available on amazon and are based on plenty of research that shows light deficiency lies at the heart of SAD.
So don’t let winter get you down this year. Stay active, get outside, eat right and keep smiling. Believe it or not you can learn to love winter just as much as you enjoy summer. All you need is the right mindset, and these tips will help get you on the right track.