This weekend, we turn back the clock. On the one hand, I love the idea of that extra hour of sleep. On the other, the shorter days tend to make me a little “sad.”
You’d think being amongst the bright lights of NYC, I wouldn’t know day from night, but even in the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps, it’s difficult to stay peppy and want to go for a walk after dinner when it’s pitch black and cold. And waking up in the morning to hit that 7:00 a.m. yoga class? It’s dark outside! I want to hit snooze and snuggle up to my husband, not venture out into the dark, cold city streets!
I guess I have to admit that I suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While I love pumpkin soup, apple cider, and a roaring fire, my mood and energy definitely head south for the winter.
Research shows that people in northern climates more commonly suffer from SAD than their southern pals, thanks to less sunlight. Even 4.7% of NYC reports suffering from varying degrees of SAD (so I guess the constant Times Square industrial light show is no substitute for the real thing!).
While the degrees of SAD can vary from severe depression lasting several months to a case of the “winter blues,” some common complaints are less energy, increased appetite (especially for carbs, sugar, and starches), loss of concentration, and feeling moodier. Personally, I have to check the “all of the above” box for those symptoms.
My commitment to my own happiness and the well being of my clients, who may also suffer from SAD, inspired me to figure out some actionable steps to cure the Winter Blues.
So, despite the weather outside heading towards frightful, here are seven tools to bring your mind, body, and spirit from SAD to glad.
First and foremost, you must connect how the power of your mind and your thoughts affect the way you feel and experience things in your life.
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What do you say to yourself, internally? Are you kind or harsh? If you are not sure, take some time over the next couple days to dial into the language you use when talking to yourself or about yourself and write it down. The power of affirmative self-talk to recalibrate your subconscious mind is amazing. Look at your subconscious mind as an excellent executive assistant in your life—ready to help you achieve the goals your conscious mind (the boss) has set.
The power of your intention is mind blowing, so don’t underestimate what will change when you change your language. Once you have taken the time to be aware of and journal your current self-talk state, take the next couple days to try to speak only positively about yourself and express gratitude for all the blessings you have. You will see more and more good come to you.
Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya
Exercise is an instant mood booster and decreases stress and anxiety. Do any sort of physical activity for a minimum of thirty minutes a day. It does not have to be thirty solid minutes. Take the stairs and walk whenever you can. Do some crunches and pushups while watching television. If you are not sure what to do, don’t stress about it! Whatever you enjoy doing that ups your heart rate is perfect.
One of the easiest changes to make in your dietary life is to add more water. Our bodies are made up of 70% water and need at least six eight-ounce glasses a day to function at an optimal state. Foods high in water content also count, so load up on the fruits and veggies. When your body does not get enough water, it starts to conserve and prioritize allocation, meaning certain body processes suffer. Increasing water intake flushes toxins and other depression contributing elements from your system at a faster rate and keeps your brain, digestive, and circulatory systems in their prime.
Dump Processed Foods
All of the preservatives and sugar in processed foods have a negative effect on body and mind functions. They steal your energy, slow your metabolism, and disrupt hormonal balance.
Veggies to the Rescue
Try a 70/30 ratio of veggies to other food on your plate. How you prepare the veggies is important. Lightly blanching, steaming, and baking help retain nutritional value. Raw veggies are the best bang for your nutrition buck, so load up on salads.
Avoid Alcohol and Coffee
Alcohol is a depressant as it depresses (a.k.a. slows down) the nervous system. Coffee, on the other hand, can over-stimulate and make your thoughts and mind feel chaotic. Coffee, like sugar and soft drinks, is also a diuretic, draining your system of the moisture—hydration—it needs.
Shine Some Light
Throw open the blinds and move your desk and chair closer to the window (if you can). Sit on a park bench and eat your lunch. Take a walk outside rather than head to the snack machine when that 3:00 slump strikes.
I hope you take the time to implement some of these suggestions. You are worth the effort. If your depression is debilitating to the point of interfering with daily functioning, please seek treatment from a licensed professional. Therapy is a gift you can give yourself, even if you are not suffering from clinical depression. Consider it one hour a week that you do not have to take care anyone but yourself!
How do you keep your spirits high in the colder months? Share your ideas!
Love Love Love
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*Image courtesy of ientu.November 1, 2013