Playing hockey on a frozen pond or snowmobiling down a trail is a great way to enjoy winter. It’s a part of being Canadian. While others are out enjoying all that winter has to offer, you may be finding it hard to find the energy. What could be the problem? Believe it or not, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), could be to blame. The good news is you’re not alone. An estimated 2-3% of the general population suffers from SAD.
First of all, what is SAD? You could call it “seasonal depression” or “winter blues”. It normally starts in the fall or winter when the days become shorter. It remains until the brighter days of spring or early summer. It affects your mood, sleep habits, appetite, concentration, and energy levels. It becomes hard to feel motivated toward activities you normally enjoy. Perhaps you feel a little less like yourself. The good news is there are steps to take in order to manage SAD. The better news is you can start right now.
1) Eat well
This is at the top of my list because nutrition feeds the body and the mind. The better you feed it, the more energy you’ll have for activity. According to a study by the American Journal of Psychiatry, women whose diets are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins have a lower risk of depression. As well, including essential fatty acids found in salmon and flaxseed oil helps regulate brain function.
2) Get outside
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine” vitamin for a reason. It helps to regulate your serotonin levels which regulates mood. Due to fewer daylight hours in the winter months, your body creates less of this “happy” hormone. The sun is still shining above those gray clouds. Taking a walk outside for even 15 minutes can boost your mood.
3) Get a move on
Exercise can have a more positive effect than medication in managing SAD. Aerobic exercise improves symptoms of depression. Strength training is even more effective at boosting mood. The combination of the two is even more effective. Exercising outdoors is a double whammy if you need a dose of Vitamin D. This can help to manage anxiety and boost your sense of self confidence.
4) Get some rest
Proper sleeping patterns are imperative to help your body and mind repair. Your circadian rhythm (sleeping pattern) is disrupted during the winter months. This can cause an excess amount of hormone cortisol to be released. The release of this “stress” hormone effects mood and can lead to excess inflammation. Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up with the sunrise helps to regulate those patterns. Eight hours of sleep is recommended.
5) Get Social
Connecting with people in a fun way is a great mood booster. For example, gather some friends and take your dogs to the park; go sledding with friends or family; build a snowman in your back yard; go to a group class at your gym. There are endless ways to keep your body and mind engaged in positive activity. Talking to others will help you feel better and as they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many Canadians suffer from SAD. If you’re seeking ways to help yourself, it’s also important to speak to a professional. The good news is that these are low cost and simple ways to help manage seasonal depression. Let’s spend more time feeling a little less blue and little more you!