15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues from 15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

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15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal affective disorder is a clinical depression. It may have a nickname such as “winter blues” but it’s more than feeling gloomy because the sun is not out, Dr. Kelly Rohan, Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychological Science, University of Vermont, says. About half a million people in the U.S. are affected between September and April, peaking in December, January and February. Three out of four patients are women.

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Brighten up the house

recent study showed that natural light in the office boosts health. It can easily be applied for home. Open the blinds or curtains. Remove anything that stands in the way of natural light getting in. Clean the windows to get rid of the dirt that may have accrued over the months. You may want to paint the walls in lighter colors. They reflect more sunlight, making the room brighter.

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Light therapy

Light therapy is one of the most effective ways to fight the depression, but the problem is compliance, Dr. Rohan says. It requires daily treatment for roughly five months. Only about a quarter and a third of patients continue using it. Don’t just go on Amazon and buy a lightbox, Dr. Rohan warns. “You need to get the prescription right.” You could be changing your sleep cycle if you use it incorrectly and develop insomnia, mania and even suicidal thoughts.”

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Eat better

Many people crave carbs when they are feeling down but there is no evidence at all that it helps ease SAD, Dr. Rohan says. In fact, it eventually has the opposite effect because eating too many carbs leads to extra inches around the waist, she adds. “We do see significant weight gain in patients with SAD.”  People who suffer from the winter blues need a natural amino acid called tryptophan. Chocolate, eggs, cheese, pineapples, tofu, and nuts have lots of it. Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 all tend to contain large amounts of the amino acid.

Get a dawn simulator

You may want to have one of those if you are not a morning person in general. If you have SAD, getting out of bed can be especially difficult because it’s still dark outside. This device is programmed to make the lights in your bedroom gradually brighten over a set period of time. The lamp mimics a natural morning sunrise using long-life LED bulbs. You can literally take control of how you wake up. Studies have shown that a dawn simulator also works in dealing with the winder blues,” Dr. Erik Nelson, psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s Mood Disorders Center, says.

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Work out regularly

Get those endorphins going, Dr. Rohan says. There are a lot of seasonal activities you can do that can substitute standard exercising at the gym – skiing, snowboarding, hiking. Walking fast for 30 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression, according to a Harvard studyExercising outside is even better because you get the extra benefit of sunlight.

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Listen to joyful music

While this is not a standard treatment for depression, doing things that make you happy can be very helpful, Dr. Rohan says. Studies have shown that participants who listened  to upbeat tunes significantly improved their mood in both the short and long term.

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Plan a trip

“There is no doubt that people with SAD report feeling better when they travel South in the winter,” Dr. Rohan says. But don’t say that you’ll go to Florida if you feel depressed, she adds. “This is a reward for depression and it’s dangerous.” Set up a vacation in advance but be careful about the return. Looking forward to something is an exciting feeling. Planning such event can only boost your happiness and research supports that theory. 

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Go on morning walks

A 30-minute walk in the morning first thing after sunrise can definitely be very helpful, but it alone may not be enough,” Dr. Rohan says. You need natural light to start your day on a high note. A walk gives you a daylight boost as well as some exercise. If you can’t, walk outside in the early afternoons and the daytime when it is usually brightest. Sit next to a window when you you’re inside.

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Wear bright colors

Colors have long been associated with mood. Research has shown that more than 60 percent of the participants expressed positive responses to colors. About 80 percent of the responses to the principle hues, including red, yellow, green, blue, and purple, were positive, compared with only 29.2 percent for the achromatic colors, including white, gray, and black. Green attained the highest number of positive responses (95.9 percent), closely followed by yellow (93.9 percent).

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Talk therapy

“Research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is a very effective way of helping patients with SAD,” Dr. Rohan says. “People had less severe symptoms and fewer relapses two years after the initial treatment,” she adds. Therapy requires about 12 sessions, but at least you’re not on any medication, she adds.

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Catch up with friends

Being social is extremely important, Dr. Rohan says. “Social activities are natural antidepressants.” One symptom of SAD is isolation and it often comes because a patient feels tired and has no energy for social engagements, she adds. The vicious cycle doesn’t seem to stop. “A big part of what we do in talk therapy is try to push through the fatigue and do things that are fun,” Dr. Rohan says. That includes hanging out with friends and positive people.

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Medication

Antidepressants have shown to help people with SAD, Dr. Rohan says. They are sometimes recommended to patients. Bupropion has been FDA-approved to treat depression caused by SAD. It has a stimulating effect. It seems to be helping patients who struggle with oversleeping and overeating.

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Get a new hobby

Neuroscience has demonstrated that brain elasticity is encouraged by new things, Dr. Roger Jahnke from Health Action Synergies and author of “The Healer Within,” says. Learning basically rewires the brain. Recent research has found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education (and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed). So keep your mind occupied on everything but how you feel.

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Vitamin D supplements

“Some studies have shown that taking vitamin D supplements is also helpful,” Dr. Nelson says. In general, people who have depression go outdoors less, if at all. As a result, they are less likely to have adequate vitamin D in their blood. The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but shorter days mean less of it. Increase your intake with a supplement. You can also eat foods that are a surprising source of vitamin D.

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Keep warm

Staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half, according to the British National Health Service. SAD cases are rare among people living within 30 degrees latitude of the Equator. If you don’t reside in a place where warm weather is a constant, make sure you have enough layers on during the winter months so you don’t feel the cold.

15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues