You may be experiencing something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or you may have a case of the Winter Blues. This time of year, as the days grow shorter and we are exposed to less natural light, our hormones shift causing us to become rather depressed. The stress of holiday gatherings, finding money for gifts, dealing with difficult family relationships, and finding time to balance it all while still handling your regular work and life commitments can all be overwhelming. This is completely normal, but it is important to make a few adjustments to combat our negative feelings and lift our spirits.
Winter blues is a general term and not a medical diagnosis according to the National Institutes of Health. It is commonly linked to stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones. On the other hand, Seasonal Affective Disorder is an actual clinical diagnosis related to the shorter number of daylight hours during the winter. SAD occurs regularly each winter to a small percentage of people and it goes away in spring as the days get longer. Luckily, for those of us living in Arizona, we get more sunlight year-round than those in the North so we don’t experience this too often.
Even if we aren’t officially experiencing SAD, when the days are shorter and there is less natural light, we still begin to feel a bit down. Our bodies are affected by sunlight which stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters in our brains that influence our emotions. Exposure to light each morning actually helps to increase our serotonin production. Serotonin is the hormone that is responsible for our happiness levels so we kind of need to have it. It is a good idea to use something called a HappyLight which mimics sunlight (without the UV rays) and can really help to improve how you feel each day.
Exercise is also a huge mood booster, releasing happy endorphins throughout the body, so increase your exercise to a daily regimen and get outside into nature when you can. If there is snow where you are, take advantage of it. Go skiing or sledding with family or friends. Have a snowball fight and build a snowman! Here in the desert, winter is a great time to take those long hikes and bike rides. Even if you can’t get outside, making a habit of doing even 10 minutes of indoor cardio to get your heart pumping each day is going to do wonders for your mood. Check out these suggestions for other mood-boosting exercises.
If you feel overly bogged down by family commitments, maybe it’s time to adjust traditions for the holidays. Our top tip for surviving the season is to set and stick to a set of holiday boundaries. In order for you to be healthy and happy, it’s important for you to be conscious of what you actually desire versus your obligations. There are many things we all do just because they are expected of us, but if they are truly over-stressing us and making us unhappy, then those things aren’t healthy and should be reconsidered and redirected to a compromise. Keep the focus on what your spirit needs to create happiness and follow that path as best as possible!
And if you are feeling lonely, know that you are not alone! If you don’t have a lot of friends or family around you, watching everyone else connecting and celebrating with their big groups can really make you feel like an outcast. You may even be included in festive gatherings and still feel separated and distant. Understand that many other people are struggling in similar ways and that it is OK to be proactive and ask for an invite – even if it’s a neighbor or a coworker. You can also join groups of like-minded individuals on social media and take a group class so you are engaging in a fun activity on a regular basis. Having things to look forward to – even things you do alone – is important to our motivation and overall well-being. Here are some additional tips for combatting winter loneliness.
Sometimes even just knowing that your feelings of blues during the winter are normal can be a weight off your shoulders. And taking a few extra steps to combat them can make a big difference. We hope these insights are helpful – and we are always here for you if you decide you want to take it a step further and partake in a few sessions to discuss your particular situation.
Wishing you all the best for a safe, warm, healthy, and happy holiday season!
Sending you light and love,
~ You are worthy. You are capable. You are enough! ~