It’s winter again, and the days are getting shorter. The skies seem cloudier, the air colder, and the wind has a bite to it that isn’t there in Spring and Summer. With the change of the seasons can come a change in mood for some people. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression related to the change in seasons that begins and ends around the same time every year. For most, that happens in the winter.
How do you know if you’re “SAD?” Some common signs and symptoms include irritability, feeling tired or having less energy, issues getting along with others, hypersensitivity to rejection (real or perceived), oversleeping, heavy feeling in arms or legs, appetite changes (especially increased cravings for high-carbohydrate foods), and weight gain. As SAD as this all sounds, there are some simple, natural ways to combat this change in moods. So if you’re ready to get back to your usual self, and leave the grumpy, irritable you that comes in the winter behind, below are five simple ways to get started.
1. Scents can be used as a “pick-me-up.” Most people have scents that they personally associate with positivity and comfort. For some, that is the mingled scents of baking sugar cookies, with warm vanilla and sugar wafting through the house. For others it might be roses, cinnamon, or oranges. Diffusing essential oils can be a great way to help lift your mood, without side effects connected to anti-depressants and other chemical alternatives. A “recipe” of sorts that I can’t wait to try is as follows: 20 drops Sweet Orange oil, 20 drops Clove Bud oil, and 20 drops Cinnamon oil. Check out Pinterest or other social media sites for additional information on essential oils and blends that can help lift your mood this winter.
2. Let the sunshine in! The lack of available sunlight is a key factor in SAD. Open up your curtains, blinds, and doors on sunny days. Letting in the sun can lift your mood exponentially. Sit next to those open windows to maximize your sunlight absorption. You can also use phototherapy to help. This involves using lights that mimic natural sunlight. You can also surround yourself with imagery that is bright and sunny when the days are cloudy and dull. Set your screensaver on your phone or computer to something warm, inviting, and bright. This can also help elevate your mood.
3. Start listening! Music and mood have been linked for quite some time. Choose music that is uplifting rather than dark and moody. Christmas carols or summer themed choices are generally best for combating the blues. Who can be sad when the beat is happy? Also, schedule time to talk with your significant other, best friend, or someone else you care about. Consider an alarm clock that uses natural sounds and/or light to wake you rather than your usual methods. And enjoy the peace and quiet, get away from the noise and chaos that is everyday life.
4. Taste the joy! Many people gain weight when battling SAD. Choose foods that remind you of summer. Mix blueberries, chocolate, and nuts into trail mix and snack on it. Choose hot tea rather than coffee when you need to warm up on cold afternoons. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as often as you can. When you can’t choose frozen options. Put them in salads, smoothies, or as dessert itself. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make as far as your mood is concerned.
5. Be sensitive to TOUCH! Touch is one of the first senses to develop inside the womb, so it only makes sense that it can be a huge anti-depressant for some people. Clothing that is soft, breathable and comfortable can go a long way. Also, the same characteristics in bedding can be helpful. Get affirming touches such as hugs, cuddling, and other gentle affections to your spouse, significant other, or even your pets. You may also wish to consider getting regular massages from a licensed massage therapist.
Don’t be SAD this winter. Take some of the tips above and change the pattern that may have been going on for years. You’ll be glad you did.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN