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Despite the fact that it’s dark and cold outside, I’ve learned that we don’t have to stay stuck inside, away from the world, and trapped in our own minds. I’ve had my fair share of struggles with seasonal depression, and I know how challenging it can be to find the motivation to enjoy life when the colder months cast a shadow over our moods.
However, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of daily habits and holistic remedies that can help turn our mental health around for the better, even during the winter blues. Let me share my personal journey and some strategies that have made a significant difference for me.
The colder months don’t have to make you feel like you’re pulling teeth when you’re trying to get up and enjoy life.
There are plenty of daily habits and holistic remedies you can develop and prepare that can help turn your mental health around for the better!
How to manage Seasonal Depression naturally?
With the days becoming shorter and darker, the light of our moods can grow dim, too. So, what can we do when we feel those winter blues?
Engaging in daily physical activity for 30-60 minutes can have a pivotal effect on your mood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a joy chemical that helps to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your mood by triggering a positive feeling in the body.
Set healthy routines
Set healthy routines for yourself by forming good habits, which will help you feel more rested and rejuvenated. Oftentimes, the way you begin your day determines how the rest of it will go. Invest in yourself and establish a morning routine that is perfect for you!
You can begin with just three simple habits to set your day up for success:
- Create a to-do list and set your intentions for the day in a journal
- Meditate to calm your body and clear your mind
- Try to stay away from your phone for at least an hour after waking up, to avoid staying in bed scrolling
Get some Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the key to shaking off those winter blues!
While there is little to no sunlight, Vitamin D supplements are another alternative. It’s no wonder why it’s been dubbed the “sunshine vitamin”. Sunlight is also a key source of vitamin D, which is why getting outside as much as possible is important.
There are certain times during the day that are best for sun-induced vitamin D synthesis. You can use a free app like Dminder to track the sun, which allows you to see when it’s the best time to absorb some Vitamin D (and here’s the link for android). Even consuming foods that are rich in Vitamin D can help you obtain more vitamin D!
If getting Vitamin D from the sun is not much of an option for you, you can supplement this with Vitamin D supplements or food rich in Vitamin D, however, sunlight is our best source.
If getting Vitamin D from the sun is not much of an option for you, you can supplement this with Vitamin D supplements or food rich in Vitamin D. New Age Vitamin D3 Gummies are an excellent solution to supplement your needs and boost your overall health.
Not only are New Age Vitamin D3 Gummies gluten-free, but they also provide essential Vitamin D at a dose of 125mcg (5000 IU) per serving. These tasty gummies are perfect for those who prefer an alternative way of taking supplements without the need for water or swallowing pills.
Try light therapy
Light therapy is usually carried out by sitting in front of a lightbox (10,000 lux) for 30-40 minutes first thing in the morning. This light is 20 times brighter than average indoor lighting and will stimulate natural sunlight.
A randomized study found that only one hour of light therapy significantly decreased depressive symptoms after two weeks of use (every morning during winter) in people experiencing SAD.
How to use a lightbox to manage seasonal affective disorder:
- Aim for at least 10,000 lux of light (brighter boxes can accomplish the same effect in less time compared to dimmer boxes).
- Choose a light box that emits little to no UV light since UV rays can damage your eyes.
- While light boxes are not a complete replacement for the sun, they are designed to trick your eyes into believing you’re experiencing natural daylight — which can help with some seasonal affective disorder symptoms.
- Using a light box first thing in the morning (within an hour of waking up) is ideal. You want to sit in front of the light for about 20-30 minutes. Sit directly in front of the box, about 1.5-2 feet away.
- You want your eyes to be open, of course (that’s the point of the lightbox — getting your eyes exposed to “outdoor” light), but you don’t want to look directly at the light box.
Setting it on a table or desk while you meditate, stretch, read or write in a journal is a great way to get proper exposure.
- Talk to your doctor first to be sure light therapy is a good fit for you.
Based on my personal use, I highly recommend the Light Therapy Lamp, available on Amazon. This simple yet effective lamp provides UV-free light therapy at 10000 lux, with 3 adjustable brightness levels and 4 timer functions. The large light surface and rotatable stand make it easy to use at home or in the office.
As someone who struggles with low mood in the winter months, I found this lamp to be a game changer. It’s bright and easy to use, and I noticed a significant improvement in my mood after just a few days of regular use. It’s also lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with me on the go.
Food can either be fuel and nourishment or something that depletes you.
Did you know that the foods you eat directly affect your brain function and mood? Our diet is an important part of our wellness and can affect more than just our bodily functions and levels of energy; our diet can even affect our mind and mood. During the winter months, it’s important to stay away from additive-filled comfort foods that cause inflammation in the brain and send your limbic system (emotional center) into panic mode!
Try eating more vibrant and live foods that will support your body and help you fight off depression:
Consider Vitamins and minerals
Depression, anxiety, and even stress can be considerably affected by a lack of vitamins and minerals in the body. For example, a lack of magnesium can lead to weakness, tiredness, nervousness, and result in a loss of appetite. Most people do not get their necessary vitamin and mineral intake through their daily diets. Studies have also found that Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins may be linked to depression.
To remedy this, you could take supplements or add more nutrient-dense and vitamin-rich foods to your diet.
Book Recommendation: “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns
I highly recommend diving into the transformative pages of “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns. This book has the power to change your perspective and help you overcome those seasonal slumps, guiding you toward a brighter and more positive outlook on life.
“Feeling Good” is a renowned self-help book that delves into the world of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to offer practical strategies for managing mood disorders, including seasonal depression. Dr. Burns expertly combines his deep understanding of psychology with real-life case studies and engaging exercises, making this book a valuable companion on your journey toward emotional well-being.
Especially during seasonal shifts, when the shorter days and colder weather can impact our mood, it’s crucial to have the right tools to lift ourselves up. “Feeling Good” acts as a guiding light, providing invaluable techniques to challenge negative thoughts, combat distorted thinking, and cultivate a more positive mindset.
Seasonal affective disorder is a common experience, but you don’t have to let it get the best of you.
The main takeaway from this article is simple: as much as you need to take downtime to recharge throughout your busy schedule, you need to make sure that you’re also taking time for yourself and your mental health. This can mean setting aside time for exercise, meditating, or spending more time with friends and family. These healthy habits should be a priority in our hectic lives, and they will give you fuel (literally) to work your way back towards good mental health.
I hope these tips help you put your mind at ease and inspire your wellness during these cold and dark months. Let me know how it goes by dropping me a comment below!
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Danilenko, K. V., & Ivanova, I. A. (2015). Dawn simulation vs. bright light in seasonal affective disorder: Treatment effects and subjective preference. Journal of affective disorders, 180, 87–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.03.055
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, March 30). Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/art-20048298
NIMH» Seasonal Affective Disorder. (n.d.). Www.nimh.nih.gov. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder