Winter Blues… It’s a Thing!
“Shorter days and longer nights carries a chill… that will soon fright. Come as it must, come as it may… winter is here and it’s chosen to stay.” – Lisa K.
The darkest and coldest season of the year brings with it a sadness that is often called the “winter blues”. Yes, the winter blues and no, we didn’t just make that up. For many, winter, with its longer nights and frigid temps, ignites feelings of lethargy and slumber that can be carried throughout the the season. Experts at the National Institutes of Health say these so-called winter blues are usually marked by feeling more down than usual, being less energized, out of sorts and just plain ole’ sad. Those symptoms are fairly common. There is, however, a small percentage of people who experience an extreme change of mood with the darker months. They have seasonal depression, a more severe condition that is a medical disorder, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to research published in November 2015 in the Depression Research and Treatment Journal, 1 to 9 percent of Americans suffer from SAD. Those most at risk are female, are younger, live far from the equator, and have family histories of depression or bipolar disorder.
SAD is a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment. If you are having feelings of extreme sadness and deep depression, we encourage you to go visit a medical professional for a diagnosis. Health is wealth. You better #GetYouSome.
For those of you who are experiencing the less acute but oh-so-real symptoms of the winter blues, we’ve put together a short list of action items to aide you in combating feelings of sadness and beat the winter blues- or at least make them a bit more manageable! Here we go:
1. Lace Up Your Running Shoes and Get Moving
Getting at least 20 minutes of vigorous activity four times a week has been shown to reduce depressive mood, says Dr. Gollan. “And there are a variety of ways to get exercise,” she points out. Get a gym membership if that’s what it takes to keep you warm and working out, but you could also try riding your bike to work or running up and down the stairs.
2. Consider Light Therapy if You Can’t Get the Sunshine You Need
It’s dark when you leave for work and dark when you get home, so how are you going to get your daily dose of natural sunshine? And if you don’t think less sunlight during winter months can affect you, your mood, or your energy levels, think again. A decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms, and cause a drop in serotonin levels and Vitamin D levels, which can lead to depressive symptoms.
3. Turn on the tunes or the “chuuunes” for the Caribbean flavor
In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.
4. Get outside
Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
Being mindful, doing deep breathing exercises, and meditating can all have a significant impact on how you feel. Try taking several deep, slow breaths, filling your belly as you inhale and letting it deflate as you exhale. Concentrate on nothing but your breathing.
6. Eat complex carbohydrates
Greasy, refined carbohydrates such as pizza and garlic bread give you short-term pleasure, but will make you feel more sluggish over the winter months. More complex carbohydrates, such as broccoli, spinach, courgettes and lentils take longer to digest, meaning they don’t cause the sudden spikes in blood sugar that can play havoc with your mood.
Dr Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who first began researching the winter blues (in the 1980s), is a firm believer of transcendental meditation as a means of treating the condition. Studies have suggested that by relaxing the body and mind through stimulating the release of the hormone melatonin, meditation can lead to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with happiness, and decreased activity in brain regions linked to stress.
Last but certainly not least- BE KIND TO YOURSELF… this too shall pass.
We’ve given you a lot of tips on how to deal with feeling down. But we understand that when you’re depressed, it can be really hard to find the motivation to actually do these things. If you skip a workout, stay in all day, or listen to your favorite sad song on repeat, don’t get mad at yourself. Instead, think about what you’d say to a loved one going through something similar- then do that!
Research by Phia D, Get You Some Podcast