SAD. Can we agree that the acronym for seasonal affective disorder is perhaps the most fitting acronym in history? I mean, really. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to the change of seasons, most commonly presenting when we roll into late fall and early winter. It can feel like the winter blues or at the other end of the spectrum can be incredibly disruptive and debilitating.
If you find yourself frozen with anxiety or weighed down by depression, see a doctor – there’s absolutely no reason to suffer through SAD without help. However, if you fall into the blues category, or even just the “I don’t like winter” range, we’ve got some killer tips that can make winter enjoyable…even if you live in a place where snow flakes fly for over half of the year (I’ll be honest, it was a little depressing to write that). I’m living proof that with a plan in place and a change of heart, better moods are ahead. Last year old man winter transformed into Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing by following a handful of the bellow tips.
- Vitamin D: We just wrote a whole blog dedicated to its importance, but here’s another shoutout to the fact that nearly every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. If you’re deficient, you’re gonna feel it.
- Get outside: Studies show time and time again that fresh air is good for our physical and mental wellbeing. Hate the cold, guess what? YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE COLD (yep, I yelled that). You’re cold because you’re not dressed properly. And when you’re outside and dressed well, that cold fresh air feels so good in your lungs.
- Alter your diet: You know we’re a l w a y s going to bring it back to food. And that’s because you eat it everyday, and what you eat matters. Fall and winter is a time to move away from crisp, raw, chilled fruits and veggies and to instead focus on cooked, lightly oiled and spiced foods. Ayurveda tells us that these are the months when our digestive fire is highest and our bodies require more fuel to stay warm and healthy. Do you feel hungrier in the winter? Guess what, that’s real – your body is talking. Eating seasonal and locally available food is not only cheaper, it keeps your carbon footprint low.
- Nourishing warm drinks: Tea is an easy, inexpensive powerhouse. Not your bag, baby? Here is a homemade elixir we swear by. Golden milk is also having its moment and rightfully so – I mentally turn into Beyoncé in Sasha Fierce mode after just a mugful.
- Hygge: Hygge (pronounced HEW-gə) is an integral part of the Danish culture. Hygge encompasses the practices of coziness, community and wellbeing. Think hiking with friends, sledding and cocoa, making and lighting luminaries, candles and cozy blankets scattered throughout your space, gathering often with friends and loved ones, enjoying the great outdoors, etc. Practicing hygge feels like a practice of gratitude for yourself, your space, your people, your weather.
- Sauna: The Finns are onto something realllllly good here. Saunas are used to quiet your mind, find a meditative space and sweat. If your crave and miss the heat of summer, hit up a sauna. Infrared saunas (different than Finnish style but equally amazing) are thought to be particularly healing and detoxifying.
- Read (or listen to) The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons, M.D.: Who has time to read? We get it. But this book has been a longtime PN favorite. If you want a better understanding of depression, brain chemistry and integrative approaches to create your own biochemistry of joy, then this will become your handbook.
- SAD lamp: If your winter blues affect your to the point of feeling sluggish, mildly depressed and your sleep patterns are off, a SAD Lamp (look for 10,000 lux) may be your ticket to a whole new world. SAD lamps simulate sunlight, but without harmful rays. Many users find they have increased energy, regular sleep patterns and feel over all happier with regular use.
- Clothing: While this isn’t exactly work, it is money and money=work. Do yourself a huge favor and invest in proper outdoor gear. Some great socks, mittens, hat and a coat, will get you off to a great start. A winter coat will be your biggest expense, but will also change the way you experience winter and how much time your willing and able to spend outdoors. Invest in a great coat, and it will be worth every cent.
- Exercise. Regular exercise. Here’s the thing, when you skimp on exercise in the summer, you’re probably still getting fresh air, optimizing your vitamin D levels and moving more. Not to mention people are happier and days are lighter. Now think about winter: days are shorter and darker, people are less happy, you minimize your time outside, curse the cold and move less. How does anyone NOT get the blues? You’ve heard it before and we’re hear to remind you again, exercise releases endorphins and cheers you up. If there is anytime to stay on the wagon, it’s now. Three birds one stone? Get your exercise bundled up outdoors, and you’ll get your exercise, fresh air and hygge done in one fell swoop.
I don’t know about you, but hygge alone makes me excited for winter. New activities, scheduled gatherings, blankets everywhere and candle lit evenings are a welcomed change. A SAD lamp and and some visits to an infrared sauna will make up for what hygge can’t. Now I’m off to roast some veggies to get us through the week with bowls full of yum!