There are many wonderful things about winter. The snow can be beautiful; there’s nothing more inviting than snuggling up by the fire and you get to drink hot chocolate without feeling guilty (hey, it’s cold out; I’m just warming myself up).
But there’s one thing about winter that’s not so wonderful, and that’s the mid-winter blues.
The scientific term for this is Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), and approximately 4-6% of Americans suffer from it. As many as 20% get a mild form of it beginning when days shorten and the weather turns colder.
As Deborah Pierce, clinical associate professor of family medicine says, “It is important to treat SAD, because all forms of depression limit people's ability to live their lives to the fullest, to enjoy their families, and to function well at work.”
Here are 3 ways to address the mid-winter blues and stay happy and healthy, even when there’s a chill in the air:
- Try a light therapy box
A light therapy box is a device that gives off light in imitation of the sun. It’s significantly brighter than regular light bulbs, and the light can be generated in different wavelengths.
A study published in 2014 in The Journal of Affective Disorders has shown that light therapy boxes can help boost your mood if you suffer from SAD. You simply sit in front of the light box for about half an hour a day, and it stimulates your circadian rhythm and limits your release of melatonin.
Researchers out of the University of Michigan Depression Center have found that this kind of light therapy is most effective when it’s done first thing in the morning.
- Use the ancient art of aromatherapy
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in therapeutic capacities. Each oil is a concentrated extract made from the blossoms, roots, or leaves of plants. The oils can be massaged into the skin or inhaled, and each has its own unique healing properties.
According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Natural Medicines, one of the best essential oils to use for depressive disorders like SAD is poplar. Other helpful pick-me-up essential oils are bergamot, lavender, Roman chamomile, and ylang ylang. Citrus scents like orange and lemon can also boost your mood and give you energy.
One easy way to use aromatherapy is to get a diffuser like the Spa Room Spamist Diffuser. Its ultrasonic technology releases essential oil fragrances for up to 4 hours, and it has an automatic safety shut-off.
Keep one at home or the office (or both), add a few drops of oil and breathe in the joy:
As with other forms of depression, exercise makes a significant difference in elevating mood and minimizing the impact of the mid-winter blues.
Outdoor exercise is ideal, and a brisk 20-minute walk is all it takes to start to see benefits. To best battle the blues, you want to try to get outside and soak up what sunshine there is, so going for your walk around noon is optimal.
If getting outside at noon isn’t realistic, go to the gym and hit up the treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine – ideally near a window.