Many people are physically and emotionally impacted by the shortened daylight hours of winter and colder weather, as well as the sedentary and isolating nature of spending more time indoors. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can range from sadness and irritability to feeling depressed, hopeless, and fatigued. You might even notice changes in your sleep and eating patterns.
Lack of light and warmth in winter months can interfere with important chemicals that regulate the mood, such as serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin D.
While the winter months can feel endless and exhausting, the following practices can help to mitigate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
15 Strategies to Help You Deal With The Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder
1. Light Therapy aka Phototherapy: You can treat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder by using light therapy in your home or office. Light therapy lamps simulate natural sunlight and can improve your mood, sleep quality, help you deal with jetlag, and even treat some skin conditions.
2. Movement: A sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Movement can help you to release stress and pent-up emotions while increasing helpful brain chemicals and uplifting your mood.
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3. Social Connection: Spending more time indoors can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Make an effort to stay in touch with your family and friends and create opportunities to discuss topics other than the news. Additionally, you can join online Meetups groups and attend free classes and workshops from the safety of your home to avoid feelings of isolation.
4. Counseling: Talking to a mental health professional can help you release pent-up emotions and stress while counteracting feelings of loneliness and isolation. Your counselor can hold a safe and supportive space while assisting you in working through trauma and overcoming symptoms of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
5. Mindfulness practices: Daily meditation, breathwork, and present-moment awareness can help you feel more resilient and emotionally balanced.
6. Body care: Practicing self-massage, moisturizing your skin, skin brushing, and taking warm showers or baths can increase your circulation, your dopamine levels, and help reduce symptoms of touch starvation.
7. Connect with Nature: Spending 20 minutes in nature can reset your cortisol levels which helps to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. If you aren't able to go into nature, bring elements of nature into your home or office, such as plants, flowers, rocks, shells, and fountains.
8. Acts of Kindness: Being of service to others and sharing in the spirit of generosity can help you to feel more purposeful and connected to other people. Seek out opportunities to volunteer your time, donate money, or lend a helping hand to a friend or neighbor.
9. Practice Gratitude: Engaging in grateful thoughts, practicing acts of appreciation, and generating feelings of gratitude can significantly increase your sense of happiness, purpose, and meaningfulness in life.
Read more: Explore the science of gratitude and how to practice gratitude every day.
10. Daily rituals: Orienting your day around a meaningful practice or ritual will help you to feel more connected to a sense of purpose. Commit to one daily practice such as journaling, meditation, prayer, reading, movement, or doing something creative. Do your best to follow through with your commitment to the practice every day.
Read more: Here's what you can do if you're struggling with negative thinking patterns.
12. Vitamin D Supplements: Researchers have found that vitamin D is associated with regulating your mood and decreasing symptoms of depression. Consult with your physician to discuss your symptoms and create a plan to address a potential vitamin D deficiency. You may also benefit from a comprehensive blood test to determine whether you have any other potential underlying health conditions.
13. Music: Listening to music can have a profound impact on your mood. Be mindful of the types of music you listen to and how it makes you feel. At times, it might be helpful to indulge in a sad or angry mood by listening to music that matches and validates these feelings. Other times, it might be more beneficial to listen to music that makes you feel relaxed and at ease.
14. Air filtration. You can reduce indoor air pollution and pathogens by investing in an air purifier for your home or office. Clean air quality can improve your immune system and help you to feel more comfortable in the winter while spending time indoors.
15. Aromatherapy: Burning incense, scented candles, and using oil diffusers can help to create a warming effect, reduce stress, and uplift your mood.