It was a harsh winter for many in the United States – with blizzards on the east coast, record lows on the west coast, and southern states seeing snow for the first time in years. Because temperatures fluctuate so much and things stay cool in some parts of the country even after the first day of spring, many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD, also known as the “winter blues,” usually affects people during the first few months of the year, when temperatures take a dive and some enjoyment and motivation are also less. SAD is a condition of seasonal depression that occurs when cold weather sets in, we are out of sunlight and have to cope with the shorter days and longer nights of winter. Technically, it’s spring, but if the temperatures in your area are below normal you may still be experiencing the effects of SAD.
Symptoms of SAD include sleepiness, difficulty waking up in the morning, low energy levels, decreased focus and productivity, frustration with yourself and others, social withdrawal, and cravings for carbohydrates and comfort foods, leading to weight gain. The cold weather in particular affects our drive and enthusiasm for movement, which leads to even more depression.
Serotonin, the chemical that helps maintain happiness, drops off in winter, causing sadness and gloom. The good news is that there are ways to stay cheerful and warm when the temperatures are cooler. Here are some solutions to overcoming the seasonal blues:
Exercise – you guessed it!
Practice is the strongest player in the fight against seasonal sadness. During exercise, endorphins are released, the feel-good chemical that leads to feelings of happiness and healthy well-being. It’s a free drug and it’s the best! Endorphins set in after just 30 minutes of activity. Weight training and cardio will burn off feelings of depression like no other! So hit the gym and grab some weights for a no-fail strategy to beat the blues.
Look at the part
This includes everything from the smile on your face to the clothes you dress in. Research has found that pretending to be happy and taking care of your looks can trick yourself into actually feeling this way. Take a look at the part and you will feel it too!
This is the “sun vitamin”. Your body naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight. This is a hormone that supports your immune system, cardiovascular and heart health, and promotes mood and mental health. Twenty minutes of sunlight a day is enough for a good dose of vitamin D. Adding a vitamin D supplement can help on sunless days.
Contains the amino acid L-theanine, which is a natural anxiety fighter and mood booster. It is a calming remedy that revitalizes and refreshes the body and mind. Decaffeinated green tea supports sleep and relaxation and combats depressive symptoms.
You are not alone in the fight against SAD. Try some of these treatment options, and before you know it, your days will be warm and sunny long before summer!
Michele Sotak is a Carbon38 ambassador