With the move from Fall into Winter and the shortening of daylight hours (especially with daylight savings time), do you find you suffer from ‘The Winter Blues’?
As a psychotherapist, I have found that over the years I have had many clients that are negatively impacted by the winter weather – which we also now know as S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
With shorter days, colder temperatures, and darker mornings, winter can be a challenging time for many people. How do you feel as the days get shorter and colder? Do you gain weight or slack on your workout routine? And most importantly – what is your script about winter that you tell yourself and others?
If you honestly answer these questions, you may begin to see a pattern of behavior that keeps you stuck in a negative winter experience. Let’s start with some reality testing, which is to say, recognizing that you have the power to “flip your script” about winter. There is no problem with modifying your routine because of the change in weather, but it does not have to be depressing or limiting. How you experience the colder months can be improved with a shift in your perspective.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s just ‘all in your head’ – there may also be physiological factors at play. If you are debilitated in the winter months in a way that seriously impacts the quality of your life, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Winter depression, as it is also called, is biochemical in nature, brought on by the lack of sunshine.
The Biological Stuff
Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
Does that sound familiar? If it does, it may be time to chat to your doctor.
The Vitamin D Link
Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D may be helpful for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D is not found in vast quantities in most foods. Mainly, our bodies produce vitamin D from the sun’s rays hitting our skin. So, when there’s not as much sun and you’re indoors more, there’s less vitamin D being produced. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D level. If you do have a deficiency, your doctor will recommend a daily vitamin D supplement and the appropriate dosing. There are also specially-designed lamps whose rays mimic sunlight to help with the body’s vitamin D production. Studies have indicated that sitting in front of these lamps for as little as 30 minutes a day can also affect brain chemicals linked to mood, thereby easing SAD symptoms. As with any medical condition, consult with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and discuss treatment options.
OK, so once seasonal affective disorder is ruled out or remedied, you can focus on actions and attitudes within your control. Decide how you want to feel and make choices aligned with that goal. Download my checklist below so you can have some tips for a happy & healthy winter easily accessible.
Some ways to stay inspired this season include:
Commit to at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. If you live in an area with harsh winters, exercising outdoors might require extra planning or may not be an option. Try a yoga DVD and turn your living room into your own mini-studio. Lots of DVDs, YouTube videos, and magazines offer at-home workouts that require little or no equipment. Dancing around to inspiring music is free, easy, and fun — and not to mention, can burn some serious calories! Find what you enjoy, and you’re more likely to stick to it. Exercise gets your endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing, which is one of the best cures for the winter blues.
Every summer sunset, day at the beach, and lazy outdoor afternoon is just one visualization away. Since you have internalized all of these experiences, a dedicated meditation practice can help you consciously access them. You don’t have to become a Buddhist monk to meditate! Create a sacred space in your home that reminds you of all of the summer experiences you love and get your butt on the pillow for a few minutes a day. You may be amazed at how this lifts your mood. And if you need any help, check out my YouTube channel meditation videos for a bit of guidance.
The power of intention is really important for you to tap into when you want to change anything in your life. First of all, if you recognize the symptoms outlined above in yourself, practice some intentional self-love and get yourself to your doctor and get yourself checked! Secondly, remember that you are the same person in July as in December. You can actively choose to flip your script about the winter months and create a joyful and inspired winter season this year. The past need not dictate your future. The power of your intention is mind-blowing. So set your intention on creating and maintaining your radiance from the inside out and see what magic your new attitude brings.
If you have struggled during the winter months in the past, remember: now is not then. On autopilot, your mind and body can slip into familiar patterns of behavior that have not served you, but you have the power to choose. Look at the negative ways you have talked and thought about winter in the past and CHANGE that! Practice extreme self-care this season and enjoy feeling and looking good all year round!