As we turn the clocks back on summer and the days become shorter, darker, and colder, even the most cheerful among us can get a little down. The gloom caused by Mother Nature each winter is biologically felt to some degree by an estimated one in four of us -usually starting around October and ending by April with the spring thaw.
While those of us lucky enough to live in the Valley are enjoying 70 degree weather, winter is still on its way. Before we are in its throws, I thought I would share some scientifically-proven ways to prevent the winter blues before they begin!
Make your environment brighter
When daylight is in short supply, just 30 minutes of light therapy per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Look for ‘light boxes’ or ‘winter’ light bulbs at any big box store or online. Open blinds and curtains, trim shrubs and tree branches, and sit closer to windows to get as much sunshine as possible.
Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Though especially tempting in cold weather, foods like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.
We all know that regular exercise is good for bodies as well as our minds, but it is more important than ever during the winter months. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: One recent study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only.
Crank up the cheerful tunes
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.
Plan a vacation
Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you like, just plan something that involves the outdoors and lots of sunlight.
Volunteer your time to help others. In addition to being a wonderful way to give back, it is also proven to improve mental health and overall life satisfaction. A true win-win!
While not always easy or evening enticing with frigid temperatures and ice on the ground, getting outside and moving has big benefits – it can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
How do you keep your spirits up during the winter months?