Try these tips to combat the 'winter blues'
Cold temperatures, shorter days and less sunlight keep us inside more during the winter and for many people these changes can cause a significant change in their mood. Often referred to as the "winter blues," these feelings often start in late fall and continue through the winter. However, if this negative shift affects many aspects of your life, you may be experiencing something more serious.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is associated with the change in seasons. SAD affects around 6 percent of Americans and is characterized by the change in mood from the change in weather where those suffering experience typical depression symptoms like low energy, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, trouble sleeping and even feeling hopeless throughout the winter, even intensifying as the season progresses.
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SAD is more common among women and young adults ages 18–30 and varies across regions in the U.S. where rates are higher among the northern border of the U.S. than the southern border. Not everyone who feels sadness during the colder months experience SAD, but when your symptoms start to diminish your quality of life, consider seeking professional help from your doctor.
However, there are a variety of treatments that may help lighten the load of the symptoms you are experiencing for both people experiencing the "winter blues" and SAD:
- Seek sunlight: Getting outside when the sun is out during the winter months is important. Maybe you cannot spend as much time outside, but actively planning and seeking time outside when possible can help boost your mood by just exposing yourself to natural light. Consider taking a quick walk or exploring winter outdoor activity like ice skating or skiing to get yourself out in the sun even during the colder part of the year.
- Move your body: There is consistent research that suggests exercise positively influences mental health. This natural treatment is our body’s way of increasing the hormones that affect mood like serotonin and endorphins. Regularly exercising throughout the winter can be a big mood boost for many people.
- Get on a schedule: Balancing hormones through a regular, healthy schedule is another way to regulate your mood whether you’re experiencing SAD or the winter blues. Go to bed and wake up up at the same time every day and structuring your meal times for around the same time every day.
- Practice healthy habits: Taking care of your physical and social health by eating healthy and making time for family, friends, and activities you enjoy is another important step in keeping a healthy schedule to maintain your mood during the winter.
These tips do not replace the expert opinion of a doctor. Do not ignore your symptoms and seek help from a professional if your change in mood and motivation is more serious than you can handle. With help from a doctor, you can combine therapy or medication to complement with tips like these to manage your mood.
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Whether you are a part of the 14 percent of Americans who experience winter blues or part of the 6 percent experiencing SAD, it’s not unusual to feel this way and there are important steps you can take to maintain your mood and motivation through the long winter months.
Blog content provided by Delta Dental of Iowa, a proud supporter of the Healthiest State Initiative and Get Your Bib On.