Winter can become a very melancholic time for some. The shorter days and cold weather tends to keep us inside more and out of the sunlight. Being indoors too much can make us feel less active and our bodies can become lethargic. The indoor air is not as oxygenated as the fresh outdoors which can also contribute to our feeling stagnant or down. Of course we may need to stay inside more at times so it is good to let your home and office have some color stimulating and sense stimulating factors in it. It is important to try to keep your spirits up and embrace the winter.
This is also true for those who live in warm weather climates such as Florida or California. Post-holiday crash can contribute to a depressive feeling. There have been cases of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the summer though it is more rare. We will be focusing more on mild cases of winter SAD.
Depression comes in many forms and on many differing levels. This is not meant to treat or diagnose true depression. Please contact a doctor or health-care professional for treatment of severe or even mild, chronic depression. These are, however, preventative measures for mild winter blues.
1. Force yourself to get outside and get some much needed sunlight and fresh air. Fight the urge to stay in. Get yourself some silk long johns-they really make a difference in enjoying the outdoors. You may get out of the house for work or school but it is important to make a special effort for recreation as well to see some new stimulation and get out of a rut. Destinations such as a museum can be excellent if it is really cold.
2. It is very important at any time of year to maintain a regular cardiovascular routine. Cardio exercise is vitally important for your health on many levels, ranging from strengthening your heart and lungs to improving your digestion and your sleep. With better circulation one can feel as though they have an inner furnace keeping them warmer than if they don’t exercise. An increase in endorphins (the hormones released when you exercise) will lift your mood (check this article for great tips on the benefits of cardio exercises). Wouldn’t you feel great at the end of the winter if you are slimmer and more in shape than when it began?
3. Using Aromatherapy can be very uplifting for your mood. It can also have a clearing effect on negative feelings. You can use it to trick yourself or your mind into enjoying scents of other seasons such as lavender or rose/geranium. A simple soy-based candle can do the trick.
4. The use of full spectrum light bulbs is very popular in places where it is complete night for 6 months out of the year ( i.e near the poles and within the arctic circle) These bulbs mimic actual sunlight in that they contain the full spectrum of light and not simply one color as many conventional bulbs. They do tend to cost a bit more but they can outlast a regular bulb by several years!
5. By understanding and embracing this season one can relish in the quietness it can embody. Remembering that wintertime is a time for the land to lay still and replenish itself for the spring,summer, and finally the harvest of the fall. It is a good time for us as well to regroup and find our stillness. There is a natural slower rhythm to the winter maybe it is time to connect to that slower and more subtle energy. Make time for the slower more mindful activities like reading writing and meditation.
6. Set some manageable and even enjoyable goals for the winter. When we are focused on something and have positive intention toward that focus, it keeps our minds active and productive. Some examples are as mentioned health related or books to read, projects completed etc.
7. Be sure to make time to visit with friends and socialize. Winter is not a time to isolate yourself too much or for too long. There’s nothing like friendships to brighten your spirits and to lighten one’s mood.
8. To donate time or money to someone else can help get you out of your own head! Being active in caring and practicing effective empathy is an excellent way to create a positive results from your time.
Remember that your perception towards winter is a state of mind. How do we perceive the winter? Cold, Dark, inactive. In Chinese medicine this is a very yin time– a necessary time during which the earth rejuvenates itself.