Now that we’ve reached the midway point of winter, have you noticed yourself struggling with persistent feelings of sadness, low energy, trouble sleeping, and/or difficulty concentrating? If so, you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that is related to changes in the seasons, such as the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures that come with winter. If you have SAD, know that you are not alone; SAD affects millions of Americans every year. The good news is that treatments can help with SAD, such as psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, and lifestyle changes. In this article, we’ll discuss five tips you can implement to manage SAD so you can start feeling better today.
1) Prioritize Social Activities
We know that winter can be a slow time. Events may wind down, and people may not be socializing as much because of the gloomy weather. For some, this may increase a sense of isolation and loneliness. If you’re feeling this way, you might consider being intentional about reaching out to friends and loved ones when you’re feeling alone. You could even schedule a recurring event on your calendar– be it a phone call, movie night, or lunch date– with someone that you care about so you always have a social event to look forward to.
2) Stick to a Schedule
The short daylight hours and long nights of winter can wreak havoc on our internal body clock, known as a Circadian rhythm. Support your mental health by being consistent with your daily schedule and maintaining regular bedtimes, mealtimes, and exercise. However, don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling with this; habits take time to form and it’s the effort that counts.
3) Get Moving
Regular exercise has been proven to improve depression–perhaps even as much as antidepressant medications, according to some studies. From going to the gym, participating in a sport, or creating a home workout routine, there are so many fitness options to choose from. For those who are outdoorsy, winter offers a number of cold-weather activities to get the blood pumping, such as sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and skating. However, there’s plenty that you can do inside, even in a small apartment– such as jumping rope, bodyweight workouts, and yoga routines.
4) Get Outside
We know that this one can be hard–especially in Chicago! However, with these short days and lack of sunlight, it’s all the more important to get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. While cold and dark, winter can also be a beautiful time of year, ideal for cultivating stillness and reflection. Consider going for a nature walk to notice the changes in the environment–the birds nesting in the trees, the snow glistening on the earth, and the warm glow of sunsets. Take heart knowing that the days are getting longer from here on out, and spring is just around the corner.
5) Embrace Hygge
The Danes–frequently ranked as the happiest people in the world– have a concept called “hygge”, which roughly translates to “coziness”. No strangers to intense winters, the Danes developed a mindset that winters can be a well-needed time of rest and connection, rather than just a time of bleakness. Hygge involves taking time to care for yourself, reconnect with loved ones, and savor the simple pleasures in life–whether that be by lighting candles, making yourself a cup of tea, cuddling with a pet, or sharing a meal with a friend. Hygge reminds us that winter is naturally a slow time, and that it’s okay to give ourselves permission to be less productive and more self-compassionate.
Thanks for reading– we hope these tips help you find more joy this winter season.