Do the chilly, gloomy days of winter make you want to curl up under the covers and stay there until the sun shines again? You’re not alone. During our dark and rainy Pacific Northwest winters, we get less of the mood-boosting help of sunlight, which may set the stage for the winter blues. What can you do to beat the blues when the short, dark days are getting you down?
Overcoming the winter blues
Here are 8 ideas to get past the winter blues recommended by Kaiser Permanente physician Amado Daylo, MD (Assistant Medical Director of Behavioral Health Services).
Bundle up for a walk, swim indoors, or head to the gym. Exercise can work as well as antidepressants (drugs to control a person’s mood) in fighting mild-to-moderate depression.
2. Check your vitamin D levels
Sunlight is a source of vitamin D, a nutrient linked to sharper thinking and better emotional health. Check with your doctor about whether a vitamin D supplement is right for you.
3. Get some light therapy
Give yourself every opportunity for daylight, such as placing exercise equipment or your work area near a window. Lamps that simulate natural light can also help.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains can boost your energy and are vital year round. Fruits and veggies of deep green or orange, like broccoli, kale, and carrots, have nutrients that promote better mood and total health.
5. Stimulate your senses
Some people find that painting their walls a bright color — or even their nails — can improve their outlook. Scents can add to your feeling of well-being; try peppermint essential oil or some other energizing scent.
6. Nurture your spirit
Slow down and curl up in a cozy chair with a good book or write in your journal.
7. Head to a sunnier climate
If time and budget allow, plan a midwinter visit to a warmer, sunnier climate.
8. See a therapist
A therapist can help you train your brain to think more positively, which can also make you feel better physically.
Feeling extra depressed during winter?
If you feel more than just a little down each winter, with symptoms such as missing work or struggling with even simple day-to-day tasks, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression. For some people, the lack of sunlight upsets the body’s ability to keep its complex chemistry and biological rhythms in sync; the body doesn’t know when to be active and when to rest anymore. If you’re trying to help yourself feel better but it isn’t working, you might want to see your doctor who could recommend other treatments.