Six Strategies to Beat the Winter Blues

Artwork by Wenkai Mao

Do you feel lazy and sad during dark and dreary winter days? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) could be to blame. According to Cherokee County Councilor Rachel Fisher, the symptoms of SAD mirror those of regular depression: social withdrawal, changes in appetite and weight, lack of energy and trouble sleeping. Why? Shorter days and a lack of sunlight cause a dramatic drop in serotonin, the body’s natural mood stabilizer. And while you can’t fake a perfect 80-degree summer day in January, there are ways to beat the winter blues.

Go outside
During the day, walk the dog, meet a friend in the park, or bundle up to drink your morning coffee outside to “boost mood and the body’s vitamin D stores,” says Fisher.

Try light therapy
For those days when you’re stuck indoors, Georgia Tech psychology professor Dr. Paul Verhaeghen recommends the next best thing: a 2,500 to 10,000 lux light box or lamp. Use it for up to an hour a day, preferably first thing in the morning, to simulate natural sunlight and boost energy.

Be social
Whether it’s joining a book club, signing up for a class, or making dinner reservations at a new restaurant, having concrete plans on the calendar can make you feel less isolated and hold you together. responsible for getting out of the house, says Atlanta therapist Cameron McIntosh.

Even if done indoors, 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise like yoga or strength training is enough to increase endorphins, which can keep you happier and more energized for several hours, says Fisher.

Talk it over
Reach out to a friend to let them know you’re having difficulty or consider making an appointment with a licensed therapist or counselor. “The right professional can help you develop coping mechanisms and anticipate your symptoms before they become debilitating,” McIntosh says.

Consider medication
If SAD symptoms persist for more than a few weeks and none of these strategies offer relief, Fisher recommends making an appointment with a GP or psychiatrist who can prescribe the appropriate medications and treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our January 2022 issue.

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