Plenty of people feel sluggish when winter rolls around. However, if you’re struggling to stay with it at work, craving carbs, tossing and turning at night, or feeling bored or withdrawn instead of partaking in hobbies every winter, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (or SAD).
SAD occurs when the shorter, darker winter days rattle your body’s internal clock. Your brain’s levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects your mood) may dip when it’s gloomy, and a lack of sunlight disrupts your body’s balance of melatonin (a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle). Behavioral patterns like being stuck inside on particularly cold days compound the situation by adding isolation to the mix.
If winter depression is significantly affecting your work, relationships, or overall well-being, call your doctor. However, if your symptoms are relatively mild, these eight picks can make your winter a little less blue.
Light therapy lamps
Doctors believe light therapy helps regulate neurotransmitters related to mood and sleep during the winter months when you aren’t exposed to as much natural light on a daily basis. A light box that mimics the sun’s rays picks up the slack when it’s snowing.
When you’re choosing a light box, pick one with a 10,000 lux exposure that filters out harmful UV rays to protect your eyes. Nature Bright’s Sun Touch therapy lamp is a compact choice with a built-in timer to help you drink in all the light you’ll need.
Vitamin D supplements
Whenever you’re exposed to sunlight, your body turns that light into vitamin D. Scientists are realizing that low vitamin D levels can lead to a depressed mood, and when you’re stuck inside during winter’s frostiest months, it’s easy to become vitamin D deficient. A daily supplement with at least 5,000 IUs will help boost your vitamin D back to summer levels.
Sometimes the winter doldrums feel like they’ll never end, and breaking out of that mindset when you’re waiting out the cold is tough. Mindfulness teaches you to stay in the moment, making each day easier to tackle. This mindfulness journal is full of wellness activities that work for zen beginners or om experts.
Remember our buddy serotonin from earlier? Your body doesn’t create it out of thin air: it needs an amino acid called 5-HTP to produce it. Adding more 5-HTP with a supplement can help your body pump out more serotonin, which may lift your mood and regulate your appetite and sleep schedule. (If you are already taking an antidepressant, check with your doctor before adding 5-HTP to your regimen.)
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat and control depression, but suiting up for a frigid jog or driving to the gym is overwhelming if you’re already experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression. Marathon runs or intense weightlifting aren’t required—even short, easy bouts of movement will help you feel better. A mini, pedals-only exercise bike is an inexpensive, quick way to exercise when you’re not up for the gym, and this under-desk bike does double-duty as a lower or upper body workout.
Essential oil diffuser
There’s conflicting scientific research about the benefits of essential oils, but there’s no doubt that aromatherapy improves your environment when you’re fighting off cabin fever. This affordable diffuser will create an aromatic oasis in your room—and it doubles as a humidifier, adding moisture to dry, harsh winter air.
Your body doesn’t say “well, time to sleep!” without a reason. Environmental cues like temperature, sound, and light trigger the release of sleep-inducing hormones—and melatonin is the star of the show.
Winter darkness might affect your sleep quality and the timing of when you fall asleep and wake up, and melatonin supplements help maintain your body’s normal sleep/wake schedule when you take them before bed. Staying on track with restful, consistent sleep gives you a leg up on beating seasonal depression.
Your brain needs certain fatty acids to function properly, and a growing body of research suggests omega-3 fatty acids might curtail depressive symptoms during any season. These acids occur naturally in oily fish like salmon, tuna, and trout, but if you’re not a seafood fan, you’ll want to add a supplement to reap the benefits. This pick has a hefty dose of omega-3 and it won’t leave any fishy aftertaste in your mouth.
If at-home treatment for your SAD symptoms isn’t cutting it, prescription therapy from your doctor can help you feel like yourself again. Medication works best when it’s taken consistently around the same time, and a pill organizer will help you stay on track with your prescriptions or over-the-counter supplements.