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If you feel more depressed or lethargic than usual in the dark fall/winter months, you're certainly not alone. This is an "official" condition that is aptly named SAD, short for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it affects many people—including me. Today I'll be sharing a few of my tips for shaking the seasonal blues—aside from reminiscing about that extra hour of sleep, of course.
1. Get outside during the daylight hours.
This may be difficult depending on where you live and your work hours, but even just a 15 minute walk on your lunch break can make a world of difference. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to get out the door (especially if it's cold out), so get a friend or coworker to nag you. Before long you will get into the habit and it won't seem like such a burden!
2. Exercise of any kind can make you feel better.
Even if you can't get outside during the day, moving your body around can help you feel less lethargic and "blah". It doesn't necessarily have to be high-impact stuff—even doing something as simple as going bowling can snap you out of a rut.
3. Limit your alcohol consumption.
I love a good glass of wine, but the truth is that alcohol is a depressant and drinking lots and lots of it can make you feel more down after the initial "wheeeeeeee" feelings. If you're out with friends and feel awkward about not drinking, order seltzer water with a lime wedge. It looks enough like a gin and tonic that people won't hound you with "Why aren't you drinking?!" type questions. (Can you tell I've been through this before?)
4. Spend time with other people.
It can be with family, friends, whatever. Sometimes I feel super anti-social and am like "I DON'T WANT TO SEE ANYBODY EVER" but once I'm chatting away, I feel fine and dare I say it—maybe even a bit happier? Social interaction does have some merit after all!
5. Make a point of doing activities outside the home.
This can be a bit tough due to crappy winter weather, but there are "inside" activities you can do that involve leaving your home. For example I really like to go to the movies in the winter—obviously there are thousands of movies I can watch at home thanks to Netflix and whatnot, but the experience of getting ready and being in a room with other people laughing/chatting/etc can really snap me out of a funk.
6. Get some ridiculously bright lights.
There have been a number of studies regarding SAD and "light therapy" as a remedy—I honestly don't know if/how this works on a clinical level, but I do know that sitting in a room full of bright lights makes me feel more optimistic than sitting in a dimly lit space. Look for "full spectrum" light bulbs—these are supposed to emulate daylight.
7. If you feel bad all the time, consider getting professional help.
Some of us experience seasonal depression in the form of "off" days and occasional feelings of gloominess, but if your seasonal depression is getting to the point where you feel hopeless or like you can't do anything all or most of the time, please know that there's nothing wrong with talking to a mental health professional and that it really can help. And "help" doesn't necessarily mean medication—that is just one possible way to alleviate depression. But if this is you, please please PLEASE go talk to someone! It's now easier than ever to find a professional to talk to thanks to online medical booking sites like ZocDoc and Psychology Today. If your insurance doesn't cover mental health visits, look for someone that offers a sliding scale. Many will be willing to work with you on the price.
Do you experience seasonal depression? How do you deal with it?