Dec 1st, 2011 | By Alice Burron | Category: Health & Fitness, Wellness
At one time or another, most of us have felt an atypical general feeling of frustration, depression or annoyance as late fall turns into full-blown winter. Maybe it is caused by the change in weather—especially in areas where winter comes with adverse weather. Or, it may be triggered by fewer daylight hours–which can be irritating and hard to adjust to. Whatever the cause, there is hope for those affected by it.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a name used to describe a type of depression that occurs mainly during the winter months. SAD can include some or all of these symptoms: a change in appetite (and subsequent weight changes), a change in sleep behavior, lack of energy, social withdrawal, general irritability and a feeling of discontentment. SAD, like other forms of depression, is more common in women than in men. Your health care provider or therapist can help you determine whether or not you are suffering from SAD.
I have to be honest; in the past I have had a hard time truly enjoying the fall season because I was anticipating the windy and cold winter around the corner. But as I’ve grown older I’ve come to recognize the uselessness of wasted thoughts and negativity in anticipation, and have since then developed an 8-step strategy that helped me, and will help you, get past the negative feelings and allow you to move on to a happy, healthy and productive winter. I’m not certain that my feelings in late fall through winter are specifically SAD symptoms or just the result of adjusting to a new season, but either way, these strategies will help with both scenarios.
8 strategies to beat the seasonal blues
1. Picture it. Pictures of loved ones or pleasant places can bring warm feelings and circulate feel-good hormones in your body/brain to counter the blues. Keep pictures near you and look at them often.
2. Break a bad habit (or two!). Find one small habit to break (such as drinking one less soft drink a day) or pick up a new good habit (eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day), for an entire week. At the end of the week, celebrate the success! If you want to, choose another habit for the next week and keep picking habits up until spring.
3. Get strong. Exercise not only releases endorphins that dull pain and make you feel better, but the feeling of being stronger is so positive it can counter many negative feelings. Exercise can also help you sleep better, maintain or lose weight, and have more energy—to name just a few amazing results exercise has on the body and mind.
4. Help someone in need. Again, naturally occurring hormones that create positive feelings are released when we do kind things for others. See how your mood shifts after doing something kind and you’ll be hooked. Unlike most things, there is no limit or downside to acts of kindness—do them all day long for the most benefit (to you and others!).
5. Eat fruits and veggies. Eating foods high in Vitamin C, such as bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and broccoli can boost your immune system and make you less likely to catch the latest virus going around. Fruits and vegetables also provide protection against ailments and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
6. Spend time with positive people. Find those in your social circle that make you smile and feel good about yourself. Meet with them regularly. Their positive mood will be catchy.
7. Learn something new. Winter time provides a great opportunity to start a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Projects occupy your mind and keep you distracted from negative feelings and also give you a feeling of accomplishment. The same is true for reading new books and researching new subjects.
8. Plan ahead. Winter time is also a great time to make financial, work, home-improvement and personal goals. Write them down and make a timeline for completion. Again, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and also feel more in control of situations.
If you still find yourself experiencing SAD symptoms, don’t be afraid to talk with your health care provider. They may be able to determine if there are any interventions, medications or supplements that might be beneficial. Remember, there is always hope for countering seasonal blues. Keep experimenting and you will find your own personal strategy for not just making it through another winter, but making winter one of your most fulfilling and productive times of the year.
Alice Burron earned a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She is an affiliate spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and is an ACE certified personal trainer and certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant. Her first book, Four Weeks to Fabulous, is aimed at helping the busy person lose weight using sound nutrition, weight control and exercise principles that are proven successful. Visit her on her website at http://www.2bfit.net/.