I have to be honest, I didn’t really think seasonal depression was a real thing until I moved up North many years ago and found this to be a real harsh reality when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am a true-blue, home-grown, Florida girl from the word go. It is very possible that my first steps were on sand. (OK, that may be an exaggeration, but my close family and friends can attest that my happiest place is on the west coast of Florida on the cool soft sandy beaches and in the warm waters of the Gulf). Moving on, back in 2004, I moved to New Jersey for a brief stent on a whim and I loved it for a while. The changes of the season were new to me; the colors of the trees, being so close to NYC, all the great day trips. It was a great place to be. And then it got cold! I mean real cold! The sky turned grey and the sun went into hiding for months! The snow came and it didn’t go away. I may sound like a crazy person, but I had no clue that snow fell on the ground and stayed there! I truly thought that when snow melted, it really melted. I didn’t know it turned to ice. (Not a lesson they teach you in science classes in a Florida Elementary school by the way.) For a girl who did not travel much in her younger years, I was in total shock. All of my travels have ever been in the Caribbean. (Did I mention I love the tropics?)
Anyway, I soon found myself very sad and moody for no reason. I didn’t want to go exploring as I had in the fall. I found myself not wanting to do any of the things I had an interest in typically, even at home. This wasn’t like me at all. What was happening? My friend informed me of an affliction known as “Seasonal Depression”. I thought this was crazy. How can the weather affect your mood? But yes, much like the changing of the tides, the cycle of the moon, the gloominess of the weather can as well. So, my friends, if you are like me and you find yourself getting sad or even depressed during the winter months, take matters into your own hands. You can be proactive and prevent the winter blues from happening to you. Here are a few tips on how to maintain your mood level this winter season:
1. Exercise – even if it is a little more than you are used to. If you live in an area where it is super cold out, try an at home regiment. It can be as little as fifteen minutes in the morning. Something that gets your heartrate up and your blood flowing. If you have the gumption to do it again in the afternoon or evening, even better. Trying 30 second planks at your workplace is always a great option as well. (Get your friends to join in and make a challenge out of it).
2. Talk about it – If you live with family or friends, let them know that the winter weather makes you a bit blue and most likely they will be more than happy to help find ways to counteract the symptoms. Let your doctor know as well if you feel it necessary.
3. Stay connected – Do not isolate. This is so easy to do during the winter months. (Trust me, I can live inside my little internet box, but thanks to my husband, kids, and grandkids, they don’t let me). Force yourself to get out by signing up for a new class, going to a workshop, or volunteering.
4. Surround yourself with happy thoughts – This really works. Literally surround yourself with visual reminders to be happy. Post notes on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or front door that have happy quotes that make you smile. Change the screen saver of your phone or computer to something that makes you smile. Sign up for jokes or funny things on your social media feeds. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
5. Create a great playlist – Start and end your day with uplifting music. Music can change a mood so quickly. If you find yourself feeling glum, tune into to some Disney theme songs (you know the words). Turn on the latest pop songs and turn off the hard core stuff or even country. And I have to say, I am guilty of this myself.
6. Step into the light – Try a light box. They say tanning beds are bad for you and I am not here to advocate for them, but this beach girl does get into the tanning bed now and then. I crave the sun and I am not afraid to admit that I feel better after I’ve been in the sun or a tanning bed especially after a week of nothing but grey skies. (I am not suggesting that you become a habitual tanner or that you should tan if you have sensitive skin. Please tan at your own risk. I myself, am aware of the risks of tanning.)
7. Avoid depressants – Drugs and alcohol are the obvious ones here. If you are someone that is easily depressed or sensitive to the winter blues, than maybe lessen your alcohol intake during the winter months and substitute with a non-alcoholic beverage.
8. Take a break – Change up your schedule every once in a while. Schedule a day off for no reason and take a little vacation and treat yourself to some fun.
I hope these suggestions help. I am by no means a doctor and these suggestions have helped me. I found them all by googling over the years. I can tell you, it is a trial and error thing and when you find what works, stick with it. You do not have to suffer through the winter months, you can enjoy them as you should all the seasons. I left New Jersey immediately after that first winter and went back to Florida. Having just moved a little further north again, and finding myself again in a cooler winter season, I am again having to try the above suggestions myself. If you are like me, I wish you luck. As always, have a happy day.