How to feel better in the winter.
As spring finally approaches in the Fishers area, we’re finally starting to see some glimpses of sunshine. Everyone is hopeful that the dreary winter will be wrapping up soon a giving way to warmer temperatures. Many of my clients struggle more with their emotional and mental health during the winter months.
Why is winter hard for so many people?
How can two people live in the same climate and experience different effects of the weather on their mood? People who struggle more may have a genetic history of depression, but there are also environmental and social factors that could be at play:
- Temperature- Some people reduce their exercise during colder months (especially outdoor exercise). Research shows a strong correlation between exercise and mood.
- Isolation- Many people tend to stay inside more during the winter and may choose to socialize less.
- Less daylight- Some research has shown a correlation between less exposure to sunlight and depressed mood (which makes a strong case for light therapy… see below)
Winter Blues vs. SAD
While many people notice some impact of weather on their mood, some peoples’ symptoms reach a clinically significant level– commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This diagnosis is a subset of major depressive disorder when it is observed for at least two years that the person only experiences depression during a certain season. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Fatigue and oversleeping
- Weight gain
- Craving carbohydrates and sugar
- Feeling depressed or hopeless
Strategies to feel better in the winter:
You might think the only answer is to move to a warmer or sunnier climate. But don’t worry– even if you live in an area that experiences long, gray winters (like Indiana!), there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better:
- Exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity. Bonus if you can exercise outside! Take walks whenever the weather allows– you will get a big bang for your buck by getting fresh air, sunshine, and exercise at the same time.
- Light therapy. Bright light therapy is administered through a light box, which emits artificial light that mimics natural sunlight. Use your light box for approximately 30 minutes each morning (the most effective light boxes emit 10,000 lux). Read more about light therapy here.
- Medication. Talk to your doctor about starting an antidepressant before the start of your symptoms each winter.
- Socialize. Keep connected with friends and family.
- Therapy. Talking to a mental health professional can help you combat thoughts of hopelessness and depression, as well as support you in setting achievable goals (getting exercise, keeping social commitments, etc.
How can I help? If you notice the weather impacting your mood, you don’t have to suffer in silence. I would love to help you implement some of these strategies to take charge of your mental health this winter. Contact me for an intake appointment today.