How to Cope with Seasonal Depression
Am I the only one who feels like this winter has been so rough? And it’s not even because of the cold, per se. I don’t hate the cold, and if it snows, you’ll find me bundled up in my backyard kicking up fresh powder with my dogs – one of my ultimate happy places. But this winter hasn’t brought snow. The older I get, the more global warming has turned my town into less of a winter wonderland and more of a gray, damp mud pit. It’s dark, wet, and just cold enough to be uncomfortable, but not cold enough to snow. Without having snow to get me through, this is the first year where I’m noticing seasonal depression is getting to me.
I realize, however, that many folks have seasonal depression every year, regardless of whether it snows or not. The lack of sunlight leads to staying indoors more, which leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, which leads to less socialization, ALL of which contribute to depression. I know many of us are struggling this time of year, counting down the days until Spring and Summer. But no one wants to live like that – waiting for the days to pass so we can finally feel a sense of peace. There are so many ways to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (a fancy term for seasonal depression or the winter blues), so let’s get into it!
- Go outside! Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s unpleasant. But part of the reason seasonal depression hits us so hard is because we become deficient in Vitamin D due to the lack of sunlight. So bundle up and get outside for a walk, even if it’s just for ten minutes during your lunch break. The more sunshine you can get, the better off you’ll be. Even on a cloudy day, if you go out for a walk, you’re still absorbing some sunlight and doing your mental health a world of good.
- Adjust your circadian rhythm to be more aligned with daylight. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. In the winter, it gets dark early at night. If you can get to bed earlier and wake up with the sun, you’ll increase your daily sunlight intake and decrease your risk of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Buy yourself some indoor plants. You don’t have to be a plant expert to be able to take care of indoor plants. Some plants, like succulents or snake plants, require minimal care, but the presence of them in your home has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Use a sun lamp. Sun lamps (and light therapy in general) have been shown to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sun lamps are designed to mimic sunlight and can often provide great relief if you’re suffering from the winter blues.
- Plant daffodils and hyacinths in your yard if you can! These are some of my favorite plants! Not only do they come back year after year, but they begin growing from the ground between the months of January-February, right in the dead of winter. There is something so refreshing about going outside and seeing the daffodils and hyacinths grow taller with every passing day. They bloom very early, when it’s usually still cold out. The bright blooms are one of the biggest comforts for me when I’m struggling with depression.
- Buy yourself flowers each week. Winter is damp, gray, and dreary, but having fresh blooms in the house during the winter usually brightens my mood instantly!
You might notice that these recommendations have a common theme: Connecting with nature. We don’t talk nearly enough about how medicinal nature is for your mental health. In the spring and summer months, we are usually outside much more and are therefore connecting with nature without even realizing it most of the time. In the winter, however, we have to be more intentional about connecting with our planet. I have been religiously using almost all of the above recommendations and have noticed major improvements in my seasonal depression. If you, like me, have been struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, I hope that these tips can help provide you with the relief that you deserve.