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Do you find yourself feeling more depressed, tired, and agitated during the fall and winter months? Many people chalk this up to being the “winter blues” but there is actually a scientific reason behind how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling this way.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a kind of depression that appears at certain times of the year. It usually begins in the fall when the days get shorter and lasts through the winter. It’s still unclear exactly what causes SAD, but it’s thought that it could be due to the lack of sunlight. The longer nights also causes the brain to release more melatonin—”at the expense of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being”, explains integrative psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Joy.
Symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
With the whole world being trapped in what seems like a polar vortex right now, it’s definitely a disorder to be weary about. I’ve incorporated some new things in my winter routine to help combat my winter blues this year. But before you whip out the credit card and start going H.A.M., you’ll first want to channel your inner Marie Kondo and ask, what brings you joy?
Ask yourself, what small things will bring you joy?
We all night sun light is scarce in the fall/winter months, which means you are getting a lot less Vitamin D. A good alternative for some morning sun is light therapy. If you haven’t heard of light therapy, you’re in for a treat. To reintroduce the effects of sunlight and longer days back into your life, light boxes that emit full-spectrum light of 10,000 lux were created. A light box will mimic sunlight and help reset the body’s clock. This helps restore the body’s regular rhythm of waking and sleeping, typically within a week.
If you’re a morning person, try 20 to 30 minutes of light therapy between 6 and 9 a.m. You can do it again between 5 and 7 p.m. for the best results. Too much light in the late afternoon can disrupt sleep, so you’ll probably need to do a little experimenting to find the right balance for your body.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of using a light therapy light, you could use a wake up light as an alternative.
2. Feeling Good About Your Body
Winter is probably the hardest time of the year to stay motivated about working out. You’re wearing layers on layers of clothes, so why bother? Nobody is seeing your beach bod anyways.
But on the contrary, the winter months are probably the best times for you to get up and get your body moving. Not only will this help you avoid the infamous holiday weight but when you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals work together to make you feel good.
If you’re able to, take your exercise outdoors so you can get fresh air along with a good workout. If it’s too cold or snowy, then try to choose a treadmill or machine closer to the window.
Not only will working out strengthen your body, it can also improve your mental strength, appetite, and even release tension and strain from your muscles. When your mental health immunity is at an all time low, working towards a stronger body can indirectly help combat that.
3. A Nice Smelling Home
It’s crazy how such a small thing could bring me so much joy. My first diffuser that I bought was this stone grey one from Saje. Not only did I think it was beautiful, it made my living room smell absolutely wonderful. From there, I really started to get my feet wet in aromatherapy. I know the scents that they use at my spa and massage place really makes me feel calm and relaxed so I wanted to see if I could replicate that feeling in my home.
If you don’t know what Aromatherapy is, it’s a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health.
So far, I’ve purchased most of my oils from Saje. My current favourite scents are Energy, Chill Out, and Stress Release. I burn these ones the most often in the winter time and they not only bring me joy, but help clear my head from any fogginess that I’m experience.
4. Getting Your Thoughts On Paper
Okay, this might not be one that’s on everyone’s list of things that bring them joy, but it definitely is high up on mine. I’ve been journaling ever since I was a little girl, and have actually kept most of the journals that I’ve written. Journaling has always been a source of calm for me. I used to use it mainly to write about things that I am sad or mad about—think of it as my own IRL private Twitter. But as I’ve gotten a little older, and my priorities have shifted, I started to use my journaling practice as more of a place for me to reflect and do some self discovery.
I often write about the happy events in my life now, and even when I do happen to write about something sad, it’s usually so that I can dissect and examine my emotions.
If you watch my YouTube videos, you’ll know that I’ve been doing the Morning Pages exercise for quite some time now. I’ve since stopped writing in my morning pages daily, but instead use it every couple of days as needed/when I have some free time.
It’s definitely still something that I prioritize on my to-do list, but it no longer is something I wake up an hour early for.
If you’re just starting out in journaling or the morning pages exercise, I still recommend blocking off some time for it first thing in the morning as it helps set up your day that way. If you’re really not a morning person, then build the habit to do the exercise in the early afternoon or right after work. This way, at least it’ll help clear you mind so that you can relax in the evening.