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How To Avoid The Winter Blues

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Dec. 18 2019, Published 3:00 a.m. ET

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Through the colder, winter months, it’s typical to notice a shift in your mood, energy levels and general outlook on life. The overcast weather, shorter days and subsequent lack of vitamin D can leave us feeling, well…blah! Welcome to the “winter blues”.

This is a guide to help you in fighting the winter blues and living your best life this winter season.

Physical Exercise

Regular physical exercise is considered to be an antidote to some symptoms of seasonal depression. This is especially true when it is practiced in tandem with other antidotes to seasonal depression such as light box therapy.

If where you live in too chilly to be active outdoors during the winter months, consider purchasing a pass to a studio. Many offer 1 – 3 month trial periods for discounted rates. Just enough to get you through the coldest season!

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Educate Yourself

Seasonal depression and the “winter blues” are a scientific phenomenon first identified by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, M.D. It is extremely common to experience symptoms of depression during autumn and winter and various literature including books, medical journals and articles have been written on the condition and its various signs and symptoms.

Educating oneself on the phenomenon can help you understand and identify your feelings. Moreover, being knowledgeable on your symptoms allows you to be prepared in different approaches to treating and addressing how you are feeling.

Eat Healthy

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Feeling low can take a serious toll on our nutrition habits and choices; everything from complete loss of appetite to binge eating to spiraling motivation to cook that results in an over reliance on fast-food and greasy takeout.

As the winter season veers its head, take a critical look at your diet and consider where you can make health changes.

Craving and subsequently giving into cravings for empty carbs and white sugars will only increase symptoms of fatigue, drowsiness and mood instability.

The newly updated Canada food guide suggests centering legumes, whole grains, high-proteins and vegetables as the building blocks of a healthy diet. Nutrient dense foods such as these will satisfy cravings and are useful in preventing the symptoms of depression.

Light Therapy

This can take various forms, the most common being the purchasing of a solar-light or light box that mimics the effect of sunlight on the body. The concept is that the light box emits a false sunlight that replaces the loss of exposure to sunlight that triggers seasonal depression in the winter months.

These lights are especially useful for those living at northern latitudes and studies have shown that light box therapy can reduce symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and excessive sleepiness in people with seasonal depression.

Aside from using a light box, light therapy can be done home-remedy style buy simply making it a priority to go for a walk when the sun is out during midday.

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Be Social

While laying in bed watching Netflix with the curtains drawn can be tempting, accept that it will not help you feel better or lift your mood. In contrast, being social and around the energy of other people is good for your mental well-being.

If you know you experience the seasonal blues, make an extra effort to accept social invitations and be around the company of others as the Winter season enters full force. You don’t have to stay for hours or up all night, just making an appearance at social gatherings can be a positive step!

Art Therapy

Art therapy can be administered in non-clinical setting by a therapist, counsellor and/or practitioner to offer a creative or non-talk based approach to helping patients cope or understand trauma and their behavior.

Art therapy can also take other, non-clinical forms and can simply be an individual’s artistic and/or creative outlet. Art and the creative expression can be effective ways of addressing mood disorders and in maintaining one’s mental wellness.

During the winter months, taking up a creative expression or enrolling in an art class can be a worthwhile means to tackling the winter blues and having an outlet for negative emotions.

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Focus On A Goal

Distracting yourself with a new pursuit is one way to get your mind off of the doom and gloom of the dark wintery months and fight the cloud of blue. A new goal will not only shift your focus towards something positive but it will also bring you a feeling of accomplishment and achievement.

Find a Support System

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For generations, the social stigma associated with mental health issues and the idea of being an outcast or labeled as ‘crazy’ or ‘weird’ stifled the cultural dialogue on mood disorders from progressing and shamed people from seeking help or assistance.

Unfortunately, this attitude towards mental health dies hard. If you find that your social circle and community are dismissive of your emotional struggles, it is important to look elsewhere and find people who are open and understanding on the subject of mental wellness.

Being surrounded by understanding people that you are able to talk to openly without being shut down is extremely important if you’re in the thick of seasonal depression; not just to have people to talk to but because true friends will be people in your corner.

People who know that you are struggling with the seasonal blues and therefore people who encourage you to go outside, invite you to gatherings and take other steps to assist you in lifting your mood.

If you are experiencing the winter blues or seasonal effectiveness disorder, remind yourself of how normal it is.

In fact, one in four Americans experience some form of the winter blues. Trying out one or all of the activities suggested in the guide above is meant to redirect your energy and help you break out of negative thought patterns.

If your symptoms are extreme—seek professional help and speak with a doctor or psychiatrist.

This article was written by Sadie Stephens and originally appeared on See Girl Work.

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