Daylight hours are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder. If you are like many of us, the long dark, dreary days of winter can get you down. If you find yourself lacking energy, struggling to rise in the morning, and overeating or eating unhealthy foods, you may have a case of the winter blues, as known as seasonal depression. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to help you snap out of it.
- Get Physical
Studies have shown that participating in regular exercise can not only help fight high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes but can also aid in easing anxiety and depression. Try exercising several days a week to help reduce your winter blues, but try to avoid activity right before bed. Starting an exercise program could be as simple as taking a nice, brisk walk in the cold air, which can quickly lift your mood and make you instantly feel better. Find a friend to work out with to make the exercise more enjoyable and the time pass faster.
- Practice Meditation
Meditation can have a beneficial effect on both depression and anxiety. Mindful meditation is becoming more popular and can be done anywhere, at any time. There are several methods for utilizing meditation. In each case, find a quiet place and be still. You can simply shut your eyes and visualize a calm scene for several minutes, practice by focusing on slowing your breathing, or lie back and try relaxing each part of your body. You can also combine both of these techniques in a single setting.
- Soak up Some Sunshine or Bright Light Therapy
Part of the reason people are so prone to depression in the winter is due to the dark, dreary days that offer less natural sunlight. So, when there is light outside, pull back the curtains and open up your shades. Letting the sunshine inside your home can drastically reduce feelings of sadness and depression. If soaking up sunshine is difficult, discuss bright light therapy with your health care provider.
- Follow good sleep habits
Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your overall mood and boost your energy levels during the day. To help improve your quality of sleep, try limiting your caffeine to the morning hours and avoid alcohol in the late afternoon, evening and bedtime hours. Keeping your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and free of life’s reminders will allow your mind to rest easy without added stress.
- Spend Time with Others
While you may feel like being alone, it’s imperative not to isolate yourself from others when you feel depressed. Social interaction with friends and relatives can significantly help improve self-confidence and ease depression symptoms. Take a class, volunteer, join a support group or just call a friend. Just spending 30 minutes a day with someone else can keep you from feeling so blue.
- Enjoy a Massage
Colder temperatures and shorter days can make you feel depressed. However, massage therapy has been shown to elevate energy levels and also improve your mood. Enjoying regular massages can not only help fight depression but can lead to better sleep and less anxiety.
- Seek Professional Help
Sometimes depression can be more than feeling down about your present circumstances; a chemical imbalance in the brain might be to blame. If you feel your depression might be more than just the "winter blues," then you should consider speaking to your healthcare provider about possibly starting an anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication regimen. Your provider might also suggest therapy. Sometimes symptoms of depression can quickly escalate into a serious medical problem. If you suddenly begin to have feelings of extreme unworthiness or thoughts of suicide you should contact a professional immediately. Suffering from depression can be difficult, but many people can control it with the proper lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Amanda Tembreull, MD, is a board-certified Family Medicine Physician. She joined Osceola Medical Center in August 2008. She earned her medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and completed her residency at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, MN. Along with family medicine and preventive care, Tembreull also has interests in women’s health, obstetrics and pediatric medicine. She lives in the area with her husband, three children, two Australian shepherd dogs and a mini-Dachshund. Outside of medicine, she enjoys gardening, reading and running.