Studies on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) increasingly link a lack of light exposure during winter months to fatigue, overeating, and tendency to oversleep. Practicing the following healthy habits can help keep your spirits up when the daylight diminishes.
It’s better to set yourself up for the winter season by starting in the fall season — doing enjoyable activities, initiating friend group chats and outings, choosing fun hobbies, and engaging in clubs or community service.
A lack of sunshine is one of the root causes of SAD; therefore, getting more light can help alleviate symptoms. Light therapy boxes or lamps are effective options, and even painting your walls a lighter color can work wonders.
The colder months tend to make us want to hunker down and isolate from our loved ones. Nonetheless, connecting with others regularly is important for our mental health.
Exercising in the winter can be hard, as the cold weather can drain motivation and create real restrictions, but maintaining a workout schedule will keep your spirits high and your time occupied.
If you are experiencing carb cravings in winter, this may be due to lower levels of the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain, like serotonin. Vitamin D deficiency may also be a risk factor for depressive symptoms. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that low levels of vitamin D — caused by low dietary intake of this vitamin or not enough sunlight exposure — are common in people with SAD.
Experts don’t know for sure whether taking Vitamin D supplements can relieve symptoms of SAD, but ensuring you get enough sunlight during the day and incorporating Vitamin D rich foods into your diet may help.
Observe your experiences with a sense of curiosity and non-judgement, rather than ruminating on them. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of winter, try to embrace the season and find things you like about it by creating a daily gratitude list. Or write positive affirmations on sticky notes where you will see them everyday. You can also try writing reminders to be mindful with a dry erase marker on your mirror.
If you are taking medication(s) or considering medication options to manage symptoms of SAD, talk to your prescriber or a licensed medical professional for guidance. When taking medication, ensure you are always taking it as prescribed and avoid missing doses.
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