Yes, winter is here again. But we don’t have to feel “SAD”. This year, know the facts and then make positive changes to beat the winter blues.
Winter means shorter days, colder weather and for many people SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This condition affects up to 6 percent of American adults and as many as 5 percent of children between 9 and 19 years old. At least another 10 to 20 percent of Americans are estimated to suffer from milder symptoms related to the changing seasons. Women, it appears, outnumber men four to one. SAD has been recognized and written about in medical reports and journals since 1845. So those winter blues are not just in our imagination. They are a very real condition.
Research shows that the lack of light exposure in the winter or an imbalance in the amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland are believed to be the cause of SAD. A common treatment for SAD is light therapy, a way to replace the sun and make the body think it’s spring all year round. Light therapy may be an answer for some chronic sufferers. In fact the majority of SAD patients report positive benefits after sitting with open eyes quietly in front of 2,500- to 10,000-lux light boxes.
Of course not all of us suffer chronically with SAD, but we are often prone to overeat in the winter and to feel seasonal related lows. Our bodies seem to crave carbohydrates, sweet, sugary and starchy foods.
Could it be that we are comfort eating to feel good and compensate for light and sun or do we just need more calories to keep our bodies warm? Although we are drawn to carbohydrates and even fattier foods in the winter, we can always choose hot tasty and satisfying foods like wholesome soups and include plenty of fresh fruit and veggies in our diet, which will give that feeling of bulk and supply essential nutrients. If fresh fruit and vegetables are difficult to find in your area in the winter months, nutritionists report that frozen ones are the next best choice. When winter arrives, there is a part of us that longs to hibernate during the long cold months, just go to bed, snuggle down in the covers and not wake up until spring. But life goes on and few of us are in the position to hibernate! It does make sense though to go with the flow and let our bodies have the extra sleep that they crave. And with adequate sleep, there is less chance of overeating and more chance of feeling better within ourselves.
Even if we are not at our best during the winter, there is a lot we can do to stay creative, fresh, alive and happy. Just follow these simple tips and beat the winter blues:
- Wear layers of clothes rather than heavy pieces to avoid feeling weighed down.
- Make the most of the season: wrap up and go for a brisk invigorating walk or try a winter sport. Adapt exercise routines to winter conditions. Keep moving. Don’t forget to keep your head covered when it’s really cold. You can lose anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of body heat otherwise.
- Learn something new. Start a hobby. Developing an interest in something new will make you feel productive rather than lethargic. Try to stay sociable and interact with family and friends.
- Wear bright colors, even if everyone is wearing dark earthy tones. Color is guaranteed to give you a real lift. You might be surprised at how many of your friends and family will admire you for bringing color into your life and wardrobe.
- You can also bring color into where you live. Paint a room with bright cheerful colors. Bring flowers into your home, fresh when possible, dried or artificial ones when it’s not. Surround yourself with beauty.
- Try this simple exercise: Take a few minutes and ask yourself: “Which color do I need?” Then, imagine you are bathing and floating in that color. Remember that it’s not necessary to see the color in vivid details in your mind; just the basic outline and feeling, even using the name of it is enough. When ready, breathe the color deeply all through your body. This short exercise is guaranteed to make you feel great.
- If the sun is not shinning where you are, visualize in your mind a beautiful sunny scene. Again, just the basic outline, feeling, or even thought is enough. Feel the warmth of a sunny day and breathe deeply those good feelings all through your body until you feel full, with good positive feelings.
- Feed yourself a diet of positive news (avoid watching or reading horror, disasters, violence, crime, etc). Invite and allow love into your life. If you are alone, keep working on loving you and the rest will follow.
- Use positive affirmations to lift your mood and keep you balanced and centered. Repeat firmly twice a day any of the following
- My body heals, clears and balances itself
- I am a free and powerful being
- I love myself completely without condition
- Say no to colds, flu and other winter illnesses. You don’t have to be sick because of the season or others around you. Focus on positive words and positive thoughts. Love and nurture yourself. Make time for you and decide to feel great this winter.