Spring is here, but for many of us, the outside world is still winter. It’s been long months of warm layers and staying indoors, but if there’s a few more to go, let’s plan ahead and make sure that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka seasonal depression, doesn’t prevent you from enjoying life until it’s warm. With short daylight hours, longer nights, and weather being drabber, many people prone to SAD are affected. Seasonal depression causes us to feel more tired, unmotivated and down during winter. This, in turn, causes us to be less physically active and eat more comfort food that tends to be unhealthy. You can talk to your doctor about melatonin or depression medication if it is suitable for your condition. What would be helpful along with any necessary meds are a healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset. It’s hard to just will yourself to think and behave well, so pick small actions that you can incorporate into your pre-summer season routine. Partner up on the activities so you have someone to keep you accountable to showing up and staying on track with your goals. Tip #1: Keep moving! Both the cold and SAD makes it more difficult to work up the motivation to get active, but it is so important that you do. Regular physical exercise will keep a higher level of endorphins in your body, which helps promote energy and a positive mood. Staying active will also help your sleep and motivate you to eat healthy. Some things you can do to encourage yourself include:
Investing in new warm workout clothing and shoes, so that the colder weather will not be an excuse.
Keep your runners and exercise clothing by the door or somewhere very visible so you can keep movement top of mind!
Join a class so that there is a set time for you to show up, and people who are expecting you. There are running groups or adult swim classes. Or, to start simply and affordably, ask a dependable friend or family member to commit to going on walks or jogs with you at least 3 times a week.
Tip #2: Feed Your Body Well We can all identify: colder weather brings the craving for warm carbs and rich sweets. You can enjoy anything in moderation (unless your doctor has recommended otherwise), but we should aim beyond feeling happy just while we’re eating, to feeling well and energetic all the time. To minimize seasonal depression, avoid meals that are high in fat, calories and sugar. The effects of this type of food in your body can make you more likely to experience depression. A few ways you can consume a good-mood diet are:
Switch to lean meats. Easy! There are many recipes for free online for turkey meatballs, lean protein entrees, or tasty chicken dishes to replace red meat meals.
Meal plan before grocery shopping. Incorporate what veggies you will be eating with each meal, so you already have a mental meal plan for the week.
Replace sugary desserts with fruit. If you need something sweet after meals, or for a small snack, have some fresh seasonal fruits! The more colorful plate is sure to cheer you up.
Many of us gravitate towards warm teas and coffees in fall and winter. However, this can lead to dehydration, which then brings down our metabolism and mood. Drink water along with your caffeinated drinks, switch black teas for green or herbal teas, or just remember to drink water throughout the day!
Tip #3: Stay Social When the outdoors appears less inviting, our couch and bed suddenly look like great places to set up camp for several months. Isolation is a major factor for seasonal depression, and we often don’t realize how big an impact this has on us. When the people you have been spending most of your personal time with are on your television screen, you need to bring some balance to your social interactions.
Kill two birds with one stone, and set up standing dinner dates with friends or family, where nutritious meals are a must. Share your week as you share the meal together, and you are sure to see the boost in your mood from these evenings together.
Similarly to Tip #1, take a class! It can be an active one, but if your main goal here is enjoying the winter season with others, then choose a hobby you would look forward to growing. Start a book club, volunteer, or check out your local newspaper for events you can go to with friends and family.