by Kimberly Blackford
With much of the country in a deep freeze throughout the winter, it can be really difficult to stay motivated, active and cheerful day in and day out. It is not just your imagination – and no, you aren’t just being lazy, but the “winter blues” really is a real phenomenon.
Often coined “SAD,” or seasonal affective disorder, SAD makes you feel down and somewhat depressed. SAD often causes people to sleep more than usual, lose interest in their normal daily activities and even can make it hard to concentrate. And, to make matters worse, it can cause many people to crave carbohydrates and sweets, ultimately leading to weight gain. SAD is linked to less exposure to sunlight, which can cause chemical changes in a person’s brain. It affects 5% of the population, but as many as 20% or more suffer milder symptoms. Although the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved the first drug to combat SAD, there are some things that can be done to fight these symptoms without resorting to medication.
Experts suggest using bright light therapy that can help almost instantly reduce these winter blahs. Sitting in front of a 10,000-lux light box for about 30 minutes daily each morning can really make a difference. And, many times, light therapy is covered by insurance. Another option for these symptoms is to seek cognitive-behavioral therapy a couple of times a week for about six weeks. Attending a therapy session along with light therapy greatly improved mood and behavior in many cases.
For milder cases like most of the population may notice, try walking or jogging outside in daylight as much as possible. If your health limits you in doing this type of activity, then try working by a large window for added sunshine all throughout the day. Exercising releases endorphins that will make you feel better in general and then getting outdoors when the sun is out is another added boost.
Besides exercise, there are some other ways to stay busy throughout the winter and keep you from falling into a SAD pattern and below are several suggestions on how to beat the winter blahs once and for good.
- Clean and re-organize your closets. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, the last place you want to be is deep inside your closet trying to get it organized. Use this winter downtime to get yourself organized, de-cluttered and ready for the fun warmer days ahead. And, it is always a good idea to get rid of things you no longer use and get them into the hands of someone who can.
- There’s always a day here and there that seems to thaw the frozen ground a little bit and get everyone excited for spring’s return. When one of those days rolls around, open the window a little bit and get some fresh air into your home. It will eliminate the stuffy feeling trapped in your home all winter long and it will add a cool, refreshing breeze for a change.
- Go to your local home improvement store and buy a couple of houseplants. A little bit of green will sure add life back into the interior of your home.
- Look for ways to add a touch of vibrant color into the interior of your home. Bright colors will give you energy and cheer up your mood. And, don’t just think paint, but use items such as tropical fruit in a bright ceramic bowl on the kitchen to perk up the place and get you in a summer mind-set.
- Start thinking spring by planning your garden. Getting into a hobby or planning a project will not only take your mind off the cold blustery weather, but it will give you time to properly plan your spring and summer gardens so you’re ready the minute the weather changes.
- There is life outside your window even though you may not be entirely convinced! Put some bird feeders right outside your windows. Set a salt block out for deer. The additional activity right outside your window will keep you occupied on all those cold winter days.
- Summer nights and weekends are always busy, sport practices, school functions, barbecues and parties fill the calendar up before you have time to even notice, but this time of the year is quieter. Use this quiet time to learn a new hobby or do some crafts you’ve always wanted to do, but you never seem to get around to. You will enjoy learning something new while getting a feeling of accomplishment at the same time.
- As you channel surf through hundreds of TV stations and can’t find anything to watch, think about what families did in the past before all those channels. Maybe plan a night each week where everyone gathers around the fireplace, shares stories, a meal or plays a game. This may be a refreshing change of pace. Let different family members choose each week, so everyone doesn’t get stuck in a rut.
- Exercise is key and will liven your spirits in no time. So, whether it’s a brisk walk outdoors or some relaxing yoga, exercise of any sort will help you sleep better at night.
- Try eating lighter. Eating heavy rich foods may be tempting when it’s this cold outside, but it will only promote a tired lazy feeling that will keep you feeling less motivated. Stick to broth based soups or soup and salad combinations to warm you up on a cold winter’s night while keeping you from getting dragged down and feeling lazy.
Whether you choose to tackle one or all of these ideas for chasing away the winter blues, with just a little effort you will be energetic and ready for spring in no time at all!
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