Sunless winter days can affect your mood, energy level, and overall health.
It’s estimated that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects at least 10 million Americans every year.
Each person may experience the “January Blues” in different ways, but common symptoms include:
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Suicidal ideation
- Easily anxious and irritable
- Decreased desire for social interaction
- Lowered energy
- Excessive sleep and fatigue
- Decreased physical activity
- Weight gain
- Headaches and stomach aches
It’s not exactly known what the cause of SAD is. The days are shorter, the skies are cloudy, and we spend less time outside. This lessened exposure to sunlight may lead to increased levels of melatonin and decreased levels of serotonin and Vitamin D, which have all been linked to depression.
It’s important to talk with your doctor or mental health professional if you find yourself struggling with these symptoms. There are treatments available that can make a world of difference.
How to Have a Brighter Winter
Icy, cold, and snowy weather tends to keep us inside, away from our friends and loved ones. Fewer activities may be going on, and we spend more time alone. Being inside too much can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness – known triggers for depression.
Social interactions are essential for promoting good mental health. Online platforms are not enough – in fact, social media may be making the problem worse.
Connecting with people can help us avoid spending too much time alone. Take the time to schedule a get-together with friends and loved ones. These events don’t have to take all day. Even brief interactions can help brighten your spirits.
Volunteering for a cause you believe in is also an excellent way to meet new people and give back to the community.
Acts of kindness may be one of the most incredible things you can do. Research suggests that these altruistic acts can improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It feels good to do good. It helps them, and it helps you.
Try practicing easy mindfulness meditation when you’re by yourself or feeling anxious or sad. This can be as simple as paying attention to your breath, noticing your posture, and becoming aware of whatever emotions and sensations you’re currently feeling. Can you feel the clothes on your skin? Where are your hands right now?
Meditation can help you be more mindful of the present. When we let our minds wander and ruminate, our mood often worsens. Practicing mindfulness may be one way to improve overall emotional well-being, relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and promote overall wellness.
The Sun Will Rise Again
Remember that winter blues are very common – they don’t mean you’re weak or crazy! Many people experience these symptoms at some point.
Never feel ashamed to ask for help.
No matter how dark your world feels today, a new sun will appear on the horizon tomorrow.