Old man winter getting you down? Feeling a little low during the short days and long cold nights? That’s actually normal for many people this time of year.
Reduced sunlight in fall and winter disrupts your body’s internal clock. During the day, your brain sends signals to other parts of the body to help keep you awake and ready for action. At night, the brain produces a chemical
called melatonin, which helps you sleep. Shorter days disrupt this internal clock, which may result in depression, stress and anger.
Here are some tips to prevent and treat the winter time blues:
1) Exercise. A 20 minute workout or even a brisk walk improves a person’s metabolism, decreases lack of motivation and increases energy throughout the day.
2) Diet. What you eat impacts your mood. Add fruits and vegetables to meals to provide your body with energy and nutrients. Avoid processed foods like white bread and sugar.
3) Light therapy. Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D and releases chemicals in the brain that affect mood. Go outside at least once a day when it is sunny. Sit near windows when possible.
4) Avoid alcohol. It’s customary to drink alcohol during the holidays, but alcohol is a known depressant. The morning after, you may feel nauseous, irritable and depressed. Be moderate with alcohol consumption.
5) Start a project. Anything from learning to play the guitar to building a birdhouse can take your mind off of negative thoughts. Commit to a short-term and long-term goal that will motivate you throughout the winter.
6) Turn to others. Family, friends and co-workers contribute to your well-being. A simple phone call to a loved one can improve your mood.
7) Contact your physician if you are feeling really depressed. You may be experiencing a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder that can be serious if not treated.
– Min Ko, Pharm.D.