Beating the Winter Blues

mental health seasonal affective disorder self-care winter blues Jan 11, 2022

Do you find yourself feeling down in the winter?  The disease model of health says that this low mood is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” I think of it as our body and mind’s response to the conditions. Let’s think about the qualities of this time of year:

  • Cold weather

  • Dark mornings

  • Dark evenings

  • Short days

  • Less Vitamin D

  • Access to fresh produce might be less available (i.e.. farmers markets are non-existent or limited)

  • Big hype around Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year

  • Parties and events to attend

  • Less regular social interaction

  • Less regular outdoor activity

  • Easier access to unhealthy foods (the perpetually full chocolate or cookie dish at work)

  • Kids who are hyped on sugar, the $@!#* Elf on the Shelf, and being inside more

  • Strained family relationships become more apparent

  • Loneliness

With those conditions, how could we expect ourselves to feel merry and bright all season long? I think that lower mood during the winter months has REAL reasons, and thankfully, it also has REAL solutions. We don’t have to suffer through another winter season waiting for the first daffodil to poke it’s head out of the snow. We can start to feel better now with simple, lifestyle medicine interventions such as focusing on the following:

  • Sleeping 7-8 hours per day

  • Exposing yourself to morning light to help with sleeping 7-8 hours per day

  • Eating your veggies, healthy protein and fat regularly to stave off the cookie dish that seems to beckon you

  • Connecting with others online and in real life

  • Paying attention to your thinking patterns which can trend more negatively once we start to feel depressed

  • Moving your body which may look completely different during the winter months compared to the summer months. I trade many of my beloved early morning walks for afternoon strolls or HIIT workouts in my basement

Yes, these strategies take work, but the immediate and long-term benefits are powerful. If you need additional support, check our our B3 Guide to Better Sleep and the B3 Guide to Managing Stress Without Food.