The winter months bring along more than cold temperatures and holidays. The change in weather and lack of sunlight can have a major impact on mood and mental health. During the winter, we experience shorter days. For many, this means darkness on the way in and coming home from work. The cooler temperatures and prolonged darkness mean less time in the sun and in turn, a lack of vitamin D. You may have heard of (or experienced) both winter blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression in relation to the changes in temperature and lack of sunlight. If you experience either winter blues or SAD, here are some steps that you can take to improve your mood and outlook.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): One of the best ways to overcome seasonal affective disorder or winter blues is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Talking to a therapist can offer the longest-lasting form of treatment from the mood changes associated with winter. Therapists can help to challenge the thoughts that cause the shifts within your mood and help to identify viable solutions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can offer a significant improvement in seasonal-related mood issues.
Physical Activity: Staying physically active is another way to help combat winter blues or SAD. If you can, bundle up for some fresh air and sun by taking a 30-minute walk outside. Even if getting outside is not an option, incorporating some physical exercise into your daily routine can be very helpful. Physical activity helps to boost endorphins, the feel-good chemical in the brain.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Both mindfulness and meditation are great tools to help reduce negative emotions and calm the mind. One theory in regards to the cause of seasonal mood changes is that the pineal gland within the brain is disturbed leading to decreased serotonin levels. Meditation and mindfulness can help create more serotonin within the brain, another feel-good chemical. By stimulating the pineal gland through meditation and mindfulness, you can also create more melatonin which helps with sleeping patterns as well as relaxation. Mindful breathing techniques can calm both the body and the mind, allowing you to feel happier.
Vitamin D: With the lack of exposure to sunshine, it can be helpful to boost your vitamin D intake, the vitamin our bodies receive from the sun. Along with vitamin D supplements, you can incorporate vitamin D-rich foods into your diet such as fish, eggs, mushrooms, broccoli, and avocados. Some people also utilize special light therapy lights. These lights are much brighter than your typical light bulb specifically over 10,000 lux.
If you experience winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you are not alone. While the winter can be a challenging time for your overall mental health, there are certainly ways to help stay positive and happy. If you are experiencing any symptoms such as sadness, a gloomy outlook, low energy, irregular sleeping patterns, or are even craving foods such as carbohydrates, consider taking the above steps to overcome the winter blues!
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