6 ways to beat the winter blues

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 20, 2016

There are dozens of reasons to be excited about the holiday season.

But once it comes to an end, it's not uncommon to feel more upset than usual. And while you may be sad that Christmas is over, something else is likely to blame: seasonal affective disorder.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, SAD is a type of depression that affects 10 to 20 percent of Americans. It occurs as the seasons change, most frequently during the winter, due to lack of sunlight during the daytime.

Beating the winter blues may seem difficult at first, but there are plenty of ways to boost your mood all season long. Because SAD impacts everyone differently, Sue Pavlovich of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association shared some advice with the UK National Health Service: Try multiple coping mechanisms to beat the blues.

"SAD is a type of depression that affects 10 to 20 percent of Americans."

"Everyone's affected differently by SAD, so what works for one person won't for another," she says. "But there's usually something that will help, so don't give up if the first remedy you try doesn't work. Just keep trying."

With that said, here are six options you can consider for fighting SAD this winter:

1. Enjoy natural light as much as possible
As long as the weather permits, try spending most of your time outdoors during the day. The natural light will have a positive impact on your overall mood.

2. Consider artificial light therapy
Because the winter doesn't offer as much time to enjoy daylight, you may consider artificial light therapy. Research by Harvard Health Publications found that using a light box to relieve SAD was just as effective as taking antidepressant medication.

3. Watch what you eat
There's something awfully satisfying about indulging in a cupcake or piece of candy on a bad day. But those sweets will only curb your feelings temporarily, and they may even increase your depression symptoms, according to research by the Western Human Nutrition Research Center. Instead, make health-conscious snack decisions that'll enduringly impact your mental and physical health, such as fruits, nuts or seeds.

Homemade trail mix makes a healthful and satisfying snack.Homemade trail mix makes a healthful and satisfying snack.

4. Exercise during the daytime
Exercising in general can lift your spirits and improve your mood. But a preliminary study by the University of Tulsa found that those who performed physical activity under bright light reported fewer signs of seasonal depression than those with limited exposure. So how can you feel the same relief? Exercise outdoors - when the temperatures aren't extreme - or work out in a room with large windows that let the natural light in throughout the day.

5. Spend more time with the ones you love
According to Helpguide.org, one of the easiest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve symptoms of stress is to socially interact with people who make you happy. This can involve meeting face to face, chatting over the telephone or communicating via email or social media. 

6. Find a new way to give back to the community
The point of volunteering is to give back, but you'd be surprised by how rewarding it can truly be. Not only will you feel more socially connected to like-minded people, but the sensation of self-worth you'll attain can ward off symptoms of depression and even benefit your physical well-being, according to Harvard Health Publications. If you're interested in volunteering, you can use this resource to find an opportunity near you.

If you've given all of these copying mechanisms a chance and you're still not feeling the relief, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the issue.

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