Have you ever felt the “winter blues?”
About 1 in 5 people living in the United States experiences seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter blues every fall and winter.
SAD is the serious version, but a lot more people experience a milder type of seasonal mood issue–just feeling unhappy in the cold, dark months. A lack of energy or feeling of lethargy often accompanies the dull mood, too.
Luckily, these tips will help you overcome SAD and other seasonal mood problems. You can stay positive and energetic all winter!
Remember the newsletter two weeks ago when I mentioned cortisol, melatonin, and sleep problems that occur as winter rolls around?
Cortisol and melatonin are like two sides of the same coin – cortisol helps you wake up in the morning and melatonin helps you go to sleep at night.
The changing seasons can throw off your body’s natural rhythms, which not only results in sleep problems, but also fatigue and daytime depression.
Regardless of whether you suffer from the winter blues, here’s what you can do to have your happiest winter ever!
1. Get More Sunshine, Especially In the Morning. Decreased sunlight is one of the main factors behind winter depression. But sun exposure and outside time, particularly in the morning, helps you feel awake and happy during the day (and sleep better at night).
And if you’re in the office all day, see if you can maneuver your way into a window seat or office–one study found that sitting near a window can boost your mood by increasing light exposure.
2. Engage in Physical Activity. Evidence shows exercise helps boost your mood in the winter, especially paired with light exposure. Try exercising outside in the sun for even better results!
3. Reduce Artificial Light at Night. Light from screens, LEDs, fluorescents, and other artificial sources reduces your melatonin levels and keeps you awake at night. It may also affect emotion and mood regulation.
Unplugging from devices and artificial lights for a few hours before bed is the best strategy, but blue blockers like BluBlox, DeWalt, or Uvex (from priciest to cheapest) also work wonders to boost mood.
4. Keep a Regular Wake Time and Bedtime. Waking up and going to sleep at different hours can throw off your natural body rhythms, which may result in problems with cortisol and melatonin. Instead, stay as consistent as possible and you’ll feel better and have more energy.
5. Increase Cold Exposure. Cold can act as a signal to help your body adjust to fall and winter, which could help you avoid seasonal depression.
6. Boost Your Vitamin D Levels Every Summer. Low vitamin D levels increase your risk of winter blues, so try increasing vitamin D production naturally prior to winter–with extra sunlight during the spring and summer months. A large Swedish study even found that people who got as much sun as possible were less likely to die of all causes, wow!
7. Take a Trip South. The farther north you live, the more likely you are to experience SAD. But a temporary trip to the sunny south may help you feel better, in part by boosting your vitamin D levels (even in winter). Try a lower latitude location, such as Florida, if you’re in the US, or maybe consider a cheap flight for a week-long Mexican getaway.
8. Try Oral Vitamin D Supplements (Maybe). Some evidence suggests D3 supplements may help with depression. However, evidence is mixed, and one study found vitamin D supplements didn’t help with SAD.
That said, the most natural way to build vitamin D levels is sunlight, and it’s probably more effective–but if you’re desperate, go ahead and try oral D3 this winter.
9. Skip the Sunglasses. Remember how I said lower light exposure in winter is partially responsible for SAD? Wearing sunglasses decreases the amount of eyes your light perceive, which could worsen mood problems, at least according to one doctor.
10. Try a bottle of Calm which has special doses of turmeric, lavender, chamomile, valerian root, and passion flower to help you get a good night’s rest.