Five Ways to Shake the Midwinter Blues
The winter blahs. Seasonal depression. The post-holiday doldrums. Call it what you will…it’s a real thing.
In fact, experts estimate that roughly 25% of our population will suffer from a seasonally-related mood condition this year. That can mean anything from feeling a little “down” all the way to full-blown clinical depression.
The weeks after the New Year seem to be the worst for people when it comes to seasonal depression. This is because:
- The days are shorter, and as a result there’s less exposure to natural light. Many people wake up in the dark, and may not come home until after the sun has already set.
- For some, the period following the holidays is anticlimactic compared to the holiday season itself.
- Body-image can be affected by weight that has been gained over the holidays.
In a normal year, all of the above would be bad enough. But after the year we’ve just had? Worries about the pandemic and the isolation it has caused have already been blamed for an increase in the incidence of depression. Add seasonal depression into the mix and it’s no surprise many people are a little more down this year than usual.
But there’s good news. Seasonal depression isn’t just “in your head”…it’s actually a physical ailment. And like many medical conditions, there are proven ways to combat it.
- Exercise for Mental Health
- Let the Sun Shine
Your regular workouts do more than just keep you in good physical shape…they also improve your mental fitness.
Exercise makes your body produce endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals that act like natural anti-depressants. But unlike prescription antidepressants, the side effects of exercise include better health and a positive self-image.
Many studies have shown regular exercise to be as effective as prescriptions for some people in the treatment of slight to moderate depression.
Try to do 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise 4-5 times a week. Walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling…these are all good choices. Try to find something you enjoy. If your mode of exercise is enjoyable, you’ll be more likely to stick with a routine.
Doctors call it “seasonal affective disorder” (or SAD) for a reason. When it gets dark earlier…and stays dark later…your brain produces more melatonin than it does when the days are longer. The result is feeling more tired, and sometimes even a little down.
The solution? More light…especially natural sunlight or something that simulates sunlight. Here are some suggestions:
- Get a programmable dimmer switch for the lights in your bedroom. Have them slowly turn on before sunrise to trick your brain into thinking it’s light outside.
- Change your exercise time and location to occur during daylight…even if it’s just light coming through a window. A walk outside during daylight hours can help, too.
- Try a light box (like Sunbox) that is designed to mimic natural sunlight. Thirty minutes of exposure first thing in the morning can successfully counter everything from midwinter doldrums to full-blown SAD.
- If you can, schedule a midwinter vacation somewhere further south. Only about 1% of people in Florida suffer from SAD, compared to 50% in northern locations where the days are significantly shorter during the winter.
No, this doesn’t mean curling up on your couch with your favorite high carb comfort foods.
Instead, eat foods that support brain health and combat depression. These foods usually contain anti-inflammatory agents like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Examples include apples, berries, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, and nuts (to name just a few). If you don’t get enough omega-3s and antioxidants from your diet, consider supplements.
The blues and depression can make you feel tired all the time…but there may be more to it than that. Perhaps you just aren’t getting enough quality sleep in the first place…which can in turn negatively impact your mood. Sleep quality and mood are very much intertwined.
Of particular importance are REM sleep and deep sleep. These two stages of sleep are when your brain and your body perform essential repairs. Without enough REM and deep sleep, your mood can suffer. Experts recommend 1-2 hours of both every night for good health…and 7-8 hours of total sleep.
Hormone imbalances can make you more susceptible to mood swings and depression…especially at this time of year.
With age, the production of key hormones like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, and growth hormone declines. This can leave you more susceptible to becoming down or depressed.
We can help. At Renew Youth, we can identify the hormonal imbalances that may be contributing to your midwinter blues…and we can provide solutions for overcoming them.
Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.