How’s your mind been feeling lately? If you’ve noticed that your mood tends to drop during these colder months, you’re not alone, especially as a woman. According to Psychology Today, Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, with another 10 to 20 percent having mild SAD. And it’s more likely to affect women than men. PsychCentral estimates that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women. It’s especially prevalent between the ages of 15 and 55. Seasonal Affective Disorder is just like it sounds; a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. Sunlight—or lack of it—can have a significant effect on how we feel throughout the day. So it comes as no surprise that S.A.D commonly occurs during these bleak winter months.
But here’s the good news. There are countless strategies to fight these winter blues and take back your mood! To start you off, here are three key ones.
Sunlight. If you live in a climate that is sunny year round, great! All you have to do is make sure to get outside everyday and get that Vitamin D! However, we’re not all that lucky. In most places, that’s not an option during the winter. Thankfully, Vitamin D is available in supplement form (check with your doctor first, though!). Another great alternative to natural light is having a lightbox. Lightboxes are handy little tools that mimic daylight. They’re great to sit in front of in the morning, since the light also signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up.
Get moving. It’s natural to want to curl up and hibernate in front of the television or in bed during these cold winter months, especially if you’re feeling blue. But staying active helps keep your body healthy, and keeping your body healthy helps keep your mind healthy! Having trouble finding the motivation to exercise? That’s totally normal. In fact, the reason for that goes all the way back to our cavemen days. In a time where you had to (literally) run for your life on a regular basis, it was instinctual for humans to want to preserve energy. This worked great for us back then as hunter/gatherers; but not so much in these modern times. So when we’re told to exercise for the sake of it, a.k.a. our immediate survival doesn’t depend on it, it’s almost against our natural instincts. So what do we do? It’s up to us to figure out a way around that. The best way is to find an activity, or multiple activities, that you enjoy doing. What was fun for you as a kid? Dancing? Playing in a recreational league? Maybe it’s walking your dog (or a friend’s dog), or going on a hike (or a walk around the mall). There are lots of options!
Sleep, sleep, sleep! This is a fun one, because who doesn’t love to sleep? Make sure you’re getting enough sleep for you. Different people need different amounts of sleep per night. Some can get by with seven, while others need a full nine hours. Also keep in mind that the average American is chronically sleep-deprived; so when your friend brags about only needing five hours a night, he/she might actually need more and doesn’t realize it. It’s also important to keep your sleep schedule consistent by waking up and going to bed at around the same time each day.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a mental health professional, taking steps to restore your mental well-being is always a good idea.