It's a tough time of year for a lot of people- mid winter! While some relish every moment of winter time weather, for others, it can be very depressing. Literally. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a weather induced feeling of sadness, often peaks this time of year. SAD (as it's abbreviated) often occurs during the cloudy, cold days of winter where sunlight can be at a minimum. I think we all know what that is like around here!
I definitely get this mildly some years. While I haven't gone so far as to have any clinical diagnostic of SAD, I can certainly notice a difference in myself and my mood when the sun goes on vacation for several days and we are stuck under a flat, gray, sunless sky. I tend to feel sluggish, tired, and sometimes even a little down (hey! it happens to a lot of us!)
You can simply think back to this past week...sun was pretty limited. I wanted to soak up every second of the sun Monday and Tuesday morning when it was actually out. But otherwise, it's been a tough week for sun exposure. In fact, I checked with some of the data from the NWS Burlington, and it turns out, there have been only SEVEN days since January 1 with a completely sunny sky (Monday was one of them!). No wonder I need a little more sun in my life. Now that said, there were plenty of days that featured at least half sunshine (or a partly cloudy sky). These days are much more common, with 31 of the past 50 days (since Jan 1) at least partly cloudy. (That data can be referred to here, click on preliminary monthly climate data)
So, what can you do for yourself if you are feeling down and out while the weather stays "blah"? Here are some tips to beat the mid winter blues!
GET OUTSIDE! I'll be the first to admit, I don't want to go outside when it's cold, either. And it certainly has been on any given sunny day this past month and a half... it seems to be the coldest on the brightest days (just me? maybe). As much as you may not want to, try to get outside..even on cloudy days. Any natural sunlight (even sun blocked by clouds) can help lift your mood.
EXERCISE Similarly, even when you don't feel like working out. Do it! Exercising gets the blood flowing, and can trigger chemical reactions in the body to naturally help lift your mood.
LIGHT THERAPY Allowing any light into your life is good, but there are specially designed lights for this purpose alone. The bulbs create more of a "natural"/full spectrum light than, say, your average bedside lamp bulb. Light box therapy is also a method that helps for a lot of people (read more on that here). You can buy a light box over-the-counter, without a doctor's prescription. Internet retailers, drugstores and even some hardware stores offer a variety of light boxes. Or, your doctor may prescribe a particular light box.
STAY SOCIAL even if you don't feel like it. Being social can help lift your mood.
BREATH DEEPLY, RELAX. Why? One reason is that taking slow, deep, relaxing breaths stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for counteracting the stress response.
HAVE ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE. Why not?! A recent analysis of data from the massive Nurses' Health Study found that women who drank more than four cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of depression than women who drank less. Read more on that by clicking here