Light makes us feel good. It’s welcoming and visually pleasing. Be it artificial light or natural light, both elevate our mood and create feelings of well-being.
Unfortunately, at this time of year we don’t always have enough light in our lives. The days are shorter, the weather can be gloomy and frolicking in the sunshine isn’t always an option--especially for those of us who live in colder climates. As a result, we can feel tired, lonely, irritable and apathetic.
Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD
, this condition is clinically recognized as a recurrent depression that usually – not always – occurs as the days grow shorter and colder during the fall and winter months. And although it’s quite common, it’s time to do something about it and turn those Blues into Bliss!
1. Eat Right
We are what we eat. So, load up on:
- Fruits. Citrus in particular contains tons of flavonoid antioxidants known to inhibit symptoms of depression.
- Add lots of fish like wild salmon, mackerel and sardines, which are rich in mood-elevating omega-3 fatty acids.
- Nuts and seeds, including cashews, sunflower seeds and almonds contain essential B vitamins that improve our mental outlook.
- Green and herbal teas brewed the old-fashioned way also offer flavonoids that stimulate parts of the brain that produce feelings of relaxation.
- Olive oil is another super food loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Mixed daily with salads and veggies, it will go a long way in decreasing irritability.
- And, don’t forget the chocolate! One or two bites of dark chocolate each day release our “feel-good” chemicals of serotonin and dopamine -- and methylxanthine, which inhibits mental depression.
Mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing are joined at the hip. They need each other. So, MOVE! Every day! Take a short walk. Rake some leaves. Sweep the garage. Do some stretches in front of the TV. Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous to be effective, and your routine doesn’t have to be long. Start with five minutes a day and work your way up from there. This will increase your energy, clear your mind and boost your mood.
3. Have Some Fun
Classic depression can wreak havoc on our sense of playfulness. To counteract this, do one small thing each day that you enjoy. Bake cookies. Play with your pet. Call up a friend. Take up a new hobby. Read a good book
. Watch a great movie. Go shopping. Socialize. Choose activities that you’ll look forward to. Anticipating something fun and enjoyable each day will keep your mind active and alert – and your mental outlook positive.
4. Express Yourself Creatively
Don’t keep your feelings bottled up.
5. Let There Be Light
- Give yourself permission to be vocal. Tell someone how you feel. Talk about it. And in addition to talking, communicate and express yourself in other ways.
- Unlock your creativity. Draw or sketch. Dance or sing. Needlepoint a pillow or design an outfit. Organize the toolbox. Play a musical instrument. Compose a song. Write a poem.
- And, don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is the ultimate self-expression, which also releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain that lighten our mood and make us feel better.
Light is essential for our wellbeing. If you can get a bit of sunshine during the day, do so. It will help your body produce vitamin D, which improves our immune system and boosts our mood. And if you can’t take advantage of natural light, ask your physician if taking vitamin D supplements during the day and melatonin at night might be a good idea. Or perhaps consider Light Box Therapy
, both of which help balance and regulate our body biorhythms by using environmental input.
All the above are great ways to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder. Find one that works for you! Depression already is a common side effect when fighting or recovering from cancer. Let’s not allow any more SAD
-ness to enter the equation!
How do you cope with the depression that can accompany winter?
Photo courtesy of Aidan Meyer.