Do you have the winter blahs, or could you have seasonal depression? Scores of Americans get a severe case of the blues when the days grow shorter. Scientists understand many of the reasons why. However, explanations hardly help when you struggle to get out of bed.
I should know. I’ve had seasonal depression all my life, and when the leaves start to fall, I start prepping myself.
The following five tips help me manage even when I want to make like Yogi Bear when the weather grows frightful. I hope they help you, too.
1. Get Outdoors
Unless a blizzard or a freezing downpour greets me when I open my door, I get outside every day. Yes, sometimes my fingers and toes get a bit numb. I’ve endured some chapped lips. However, the discomfort of dry, wintry skin bothers me less than the weight of the winter blues. That stuff is heavy — like walking around wrapped in a wet, cold blanket.
Research indicates that I have the right idea. The sound of nature’s silence can lower both levels of the stress hormone cortisol and your blood pressure. Plus, it’s harder to get caught up in a loop of negative thoughts when I’m focused on staying warm.
2. Sit Near Windows or Use a Light
One of the best moves I ever made was locating my workspace near a large picture window. If you can, ask to sit near a window where you work. If this accommodation is impossible — if you work in a windowless warehouse, for example — invest in an inexpensive light therapy lamp for your desk. You can find these at brand-name retailers, no prescription necessary.
3. Keep Moving
It’s harder to do what I love most — run — this time of year. Long, dark mornings paired with icy sidewalks makes the prospect problematic. I don’t let that stop me, though. I tune into my fitness streaming app, or I dock my cellphone and dance.
Research supports the efficacy of exercise as an antidepressant. One experiment compared the benefits of moderate exercise to the antidepressant drug sertraline. At the study’s end, 40% of the participants in the workout group no longer had depression.
I found this particularly interesting because even though my doctor has prescribed me antidepressants, I haven’t found the right one to bust my blues yet. I’m not alone — around two-thirds of individuals with depression report not getting enough relief from the first antidepressant prescribed to them. Exercise is the best natural antidepressant I’ve found, so it’s worth giving it a try if you haven’t!
4. Up Your Magnesium Intake
Patients with depression often have an insufficient intake of magnesium. This mineral is vital for maintaining healthy neurological functioning, and many Americans don’t get enough through their diet. I strive to eat healthfully, but I also boost my intake with a supplement. Supplementing with 248-450 milligrams of magnesium daily improves the mood of those with depressive disorders and an underlying insufficiency.
A word to the wise — if you supplement, start slowly. Magnesium also gets your bowels moving, especially if you’ve suffered deficiency for a while. If you prefer to increase your dietary intake through food, try increasing your consumption of nuts and avocados. You have my permission to order that avocado toast.
5. Nourish Your Body
I always try to eat a healthy and plant-based diet, but I pay extra-close attention this time of the year. Meals based on whole foods in their natural forms ensure you get essential micronutrients. I strive to eat a rainbow at lunch, for example, by mixing up a colorful salad filled with veggies in every hue.
I also stay away from processed and fast foods. I tend to do so because there isn’t much on the menu I like, anyway — why add to my seasonal depression with empty calories I don’t genuinely enjoy? Research shows that people who eat fast food and commercial baked goods are over 50% more likely to develop depression than those who abstain. With those odds, I’ll make healthier sweet potato fries at home!
Share Your Seasonal Depression Coping Tips to Help Others
These seasonal depression tips help me fight on when all I want to do is pull the covers up over my head. Hopefully, they’ll help you bust the winter blues, too.
Kate Harveston is a journalist from Pennsylvania. She enjoys hiking, yoga and writing about health and wellness. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman.
Image courtesy of Joshua Rawson-Harris.