Those of us in the northern climes, especially where the weather brings us lots of gray and overcast weather to complete cold temperatures and short days, will often have more than a passing knowledge of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This disorder caused by too little light is characterized by lethargy, sadness, depression, irritability, weight gain, and mood swings. It is appropriately called 'winter blues'.
Women are particularly susceptible to SAD as we are more prone to depression in general. The reason for this is not clearly known, but it could be that we tend to have more sensitivity in physical, emotional and spiritual areas on the whole so it only stands to reason that we would be affected by SAD more than are men. This is not to say that men are not affected, and I personally know a few who struggle to get through winter as much as I do.
Where I live we can suffer months of prolonged semi-darkness punctuated by the occasional short day of sunshine. During the shortest days of the year we have less than eight hours of daylight a day, and when the winter rains and snows are on us, even those hours are dimmed by leaden skies. Since dealing with SAD is all about keeping your mood up, anything that helps you do that is beneficial. There is plenty of information out there on how to get through a season of SAD, here are some suggestions that work for me.
- Turn on all the lights. Forget the power bill, this is serious. Turn on all the lights in your house or where you spend your days. Do not event turn them off when you leave the room. You can save on energy in other ways.
- Locate your works so you face a window; the closer the better. Turn on your office light and any lamps near you, too.
- Get lots of exercise. Join a gym, take a brisk walk, go dancing. Exercise helps to elevate your mood.
- Do more of what makes you happy, whatever that is. And as much as possible spend time only with happy people. Being around moaners and complainers does nothing to elevate your mood and will make it harder to keep your perspective.
- Go out more, get involved with people, stay busy and forget about yourself as much you can. Distraction keeps you from moping.
- If you like to travel, plan your vacations to sunnier climates during the winter. Not only will you get a break from winter where you live, but just having something exciting to look forward to will help lift your mood.
- Practice thankfulness. Replace every negative thought with a thankful one. You will be amazed how quickly your mood can change when you are naming everything you have for which to be thankful.
- Act like a bear and get more sleep. Hibernate some of those winter hours away. When spring comes you'll be plenty rested.
- Eat right. Try not to sink into junk food funk. Choose lots of fresh foods and treat yourself to gourmet diet surprises. Try new recipes or visit new restaurants.
- Treat yourself to things that make your feel good. Get a massage. Spend time at a spa. Soak in a hot tub. Get your hair and nails done. Shop for a new outfit.
- Find a place you like to go that has lots of light. Since I sew, my favorite pick-me-up is the fabric store. Not only is the light impossibly bright, but the whole floor floor is filled with bright colors and unlimited possibilities.
- Get lost in a book. Reading absorbing novels occupy your mind.
- Have sunshine movie marathons. I love to rent movies that are set in the tropics. I also borrow travelogues on DVD from my local library so that if I can not get away myself for the winter, I can travel vicariously.
- Take up a winter sport. There are lots of outdoor and cold-weather activities pursuit here in the great white north.
- If you are really struggling, see your doctor. There is help for severe depression problems. If you can not seem to rise above the blues, do not let them go on too long before getting help.
You can probably come up with a few ideas of your own that help you to feel better and less seasonally affected. The important thing is do not wallow in your winter funk. Get up, get out there, get happy.