If you’ve ever felt sad or down during certain times of the year, you may have what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as the “winter blues”.
Nearly 5 percent of adults in the United States experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. While most often associated with cold weather, Floridians are not immune to seasonal depression. SAD is linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain, caused by shorter daylight hours in the winter. And while the holiday season is filled with yuletide joy for some, the holidays can add a lot of pressure that heightens feelings of anxiety, depression, and sadness.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help combat the winter blues. Read on to learn more about how to overcome seasonal depression and find joy in the (shorter) days ahead.
Spend 30 minutes a day outside
Living in Florida means you can count on some sunshine and balmy temperatures that give you the opportunity to spend at least a little time outside each day. Studies show that short walks in nature can boost your mood. It also provides great benefits for your physical health. Try to get outside every day for at least 30 minutes to soak up the sun and spend time in nature.
Care for plants
Wintertime is a great time of year to garden in Florida. With cooler temperatures, more vegetables can grow and thrive during this time. Even if you’re not a gardener, caring for your indoor and outdoor plants can do wonders for your mental health. Experts say that tending to plants can help reduce physical and psychological stress, as caring for plants can help people feel comfortable and relaxed.
Get some exercise
Many people with SAD spend less time outside during the winter months and tend to feel sluggish and fatigued. Exercise can be a good way to combat these feelings. Moving your body not only helps improve your physical health but is proven to improve your mood and helps fight against depression and anxiety. If it’s a bit too chilly for you outside, consider doing some yoga at home, or try an online workout video for seniors.
Keep a gratitude journal
When you’re feeling down, it can be all too easy to get stuck on negative thoughts. Keep a gratitude journal and writing down 3 things you’re grateful for each day can help remind you of the good things in life — no matter how small — and promote feelings of contentment and joy. Writing down what you’re grateful for can help you focus more on positive emotions, enjoy the good parts of life, and help you feel better equipped to handle adversity that comes your way.
Though socializing may be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling down, it can help combat your sadness and prevent you from feeling lonely and isolated. Make an effort to connect with friends or family. Ask a friend to meet you for coffee, write a letter, or have a Zoom call with loved ones near or far. Connecting with others can go a long way in boosting your spirits and theirs.
Try light therapy
Shorter days and less access to sunlight can trigger seasonal depression. Experts say bright light therapy may be an effective way to beat those winter blues. Light therapy involves using a light boxes or lamps (with fluorescent light tubes) that range in brightness intensity — up to 10,000 lux of light. Research shows that light therapy is a promising treatment for seasonal depression. If you’re feeling really down or want to beat seasonal depression before you feel it coming on, using light therapy for 30 minutes/day may help combat the winter blues.