To all of my fellow human beings living in the Northern Hemisphere, I feel you. It is getting colder and colder every day in our part of the world. The nights are longer and the sun's cool shine lacks the strength to warm our bones. If your mood drops as fast as the thermometer, you suffer from a lack of energy or you crave the comfort of carbs, you may have the winter blues.
These types of mood swings have a name: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can affect everyone, even those with normal mental health throughout most of the year, presenting itself with depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter.
The winter blues are mostly a result of lack of sunlight. When vitamin D levels drop, you tend to feel more tired and depressed. Some scientists also think affected people experience an excess of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Research suggests that this affects about 6 percent of Americans, with an even higher occurrence in Scandinavians. Since you cannot sleep the winter months away, it is time to shake off the blues and enjoy winter. After all, it only comes once a year.
Create early morning routines
Yes, it is good to get out of the bed early. Since days are shorter during the winter, the sun rises much later — for instance around 8:20 a.m. in Istanbul. It is always a good idea to soak up every bit of sunshine you can get. If you can manage to wake up early, you will do much more during the day and feel better not wasting the whole day at home.
Bright surrounding for bright self
When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light, also called a light box, for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as prescription antidepressants. Studies show that light therapy, which involves sitting next to a specially designed box that imitates daylight, is effective for 80 percent of SAD cases. So if you are living in an exceptionally cloudy location, this may be exactly what you need to have a happier winter. Moreover, it is good idea to turn on your bedroom lights at least 30 minutes before you wake to have a brighter start to the day. If you are a gadget junky and already use a smart home device, just program it to do it for you.
Happy belly: Eat more carbs
When we are sad, the first things we often reach for is a jar of Nutella and some take-out pizza. Though this comfort food will cheer you up for a bit, your overloaded stomach will make you regret the decision later. Rather than choosing a quick fix, consuming complex carbs might be what you need to beat the winter blues. For instance, if you cannot live without bread, give barley, rye, oats and whole-wheat options a try instead.
Sweat away the blues
Exercising helps the body release good hormones, including mood-boosting serotonin. As a natural antidepressant, increased serotonin levels relieve most SAD symptoms. If your busy schedule prevents you from doing daily workouts at the gym, experts advise simple 30-minute exercise routines at home every day. Within a week, you will inevitably start feeling better.
Stay in contact with friends
When it is cold, people rarely want to leave the house. However, with longer nights and more house time, it is easy to become isolated. It is best to keep in touch with friends and engage in social gatherings. Though it may seem like an impossible thing to do, getting dressed and spruced up when it is cold and getting your feet out the door will instantly begin to make you feel better.