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Do you find yourself “California Dreamin” at this time of year? You’re definitely not alone. Winter officially began on December 21 and many people report feeling a sense of gloom, sadness, low energy or even depression at this time of year. For some people it may be a fleeting sensation, but for others they may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
“SAD is not a minor condition, but because people typically experience it only during certain months, they don’t see it as serious,” says Dr. Richard Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. “People should not ignore the signs of SAD and should seek treatment if they appear, as left alone, SAD can escalate to serious health issues.” – Harvard Medical School, A Cure For The Wintertime Blues
Whether you experience or been diagnosed with SAD or simply just find yourself feeling a bit under the weather this winter, here are some tips to beat the Winter Blues:
- Get outside for some sun and light
Sunlight stimulates the hypothalamus (not to be mistaken for a hippopotamus!) in the brain; the area that manages our 24 hour sleep-wake clock. A lack of light can cause increases to melatonin and decreases to serotonin resulting in an imbalance to our mood.
- Stay active
Exercise comes in many forms. A simple 1 hour walk outside every day can show dramatic benefits to your physical and mental health.
- Eat healthy
A healthy diet can boost your mood, give you more energy and help you manage your weight during indulgent times of year. Eat a balanced meal with plenty of fruits and vegetables, grains, protein and carbohydrates.
- Stay social
Seeing friends and family and maintaining social connections can help us push through feelings of sadness or loneliness. Even a short visit can be beneficial; do what you can within your level of comfort.
- Practice gratitude
Write down one thing you are grateful for at the end of each day. This can help boost your mood and challenge you to reflect on the good things in your life especially when it can feel like only bad things are happening.
- Seek counselling
Above all, be kind to yourself. You’ve survived 100% of your worst days.