While debate exists over the cause and even the existence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), few doubt the impact of the dreary conditions of wintertime, especially those who live in areas with little sun in winter. For me, the term that best describes the blues that seem to hit in the dead of winter (December through February for the most part) is “doldrums.”
This term fits well for most who struggle with mood and energy during the winter months, about 12% of the population. Another 3% or so suffers true SAD , something I’ve also experienced. (Note: I migrated from SAD to the doldrums after finding victory over depression.)
10 Tips for Defeating the Winter Blues
Fortunately, much of what relieves the doldrums also helps with SAD (and depression too). So, for the sake of simplicity, let’s lump SAD and the doldrums into one category and call them the “winter blues.” However, realize that these exist along a continuum of severity. In most cases of SAD, there’s usually a significant biological reason (research shows that people with SAD produce significantly less seratonin in winter than in summer) that must be dealt with first with the help of a professional.
Based on my experience with the winter blues at almost every point along the continuum from SAD to a slight funk, I offer the following tips for defeating the winter blues.
- Move. Any activity beyond sitting or lying down positively impacts mood. This can mean a 10-minutes stretching routine, a 30-minute walk, cleaning the bathroom, or a quick trip to the grocery store. Just move!
- Budget. Money concerns, especially right after Christmas when the winter blues hit their peek, can drag even the most optimistic person down. Get some control by creating – and using – a budget.
- Breathe. I’m continually amazed at how just taking 10 deep breaths improves my outlook. Not only does it lessen my winter blues, but it helps me deal with stressful situations too.
- Eat. While eating your blues away is often a bad idea since it usually involves poor food choices, that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead, learn about healing foods that help lift mood and increase the “feel good” chemicals in your brain, and then purpose to get more of those consistently in your diet.
- Drink. Drinking more water is one of the two main activities that most quickly improve overall health. Whatever amount of water you’re drinking now, drink more. Hydration plays a huge role in virtually every bodily system.
- Sleep. Here’s the partner to drinking water. Establish a regular sleep/awake routine and stick to it year round. Figure out the amount of sleep that allows you to operate at your best, and get it consistently.
- Socialize. When I’m at a low point, I often avoid social interaction. Unfortunately, I avoid a terrific way to improve my mood when I do. We’ll cover this topic more in next week’s post, but let’s say for now that positive interaction with others does almost as much to improve mood as sleep and water.
- Simplify. This one took me years to truly establish as a life principle. Now, when I feel a funk setting in, which I know will grow into the doldrums if left unchecked, I look for ways to simplify.
- Supplement. Over the past 5 years, I’ve learned what supplements I need to operate optimally, especially mentally. A naturopath helped me get established, but now I do my own research & assessment. Start by learning the basic supplements everyone needs.
- Enjoy. Take time every day to enjoy simple pleasures from a hot bath and great music to a sunset and fresh air. Do this daily to help ward off the winter blues.
Hopefully you’ve gotten the idea there are a lot of ways to successfully battle the winter blues, and the more tools you have, the better. Yet, I have found that none truly help for the long term without the existence of one, specific focus always present in my life to motivate and drive me toward victory. I’ll let C.S. Lewis explain and close out this post.
DISCUSSION: What tips do you have for gaining victory over the winter blues? What tips from the above list will you try this year? Any questions?