HEALTH & WELLNESS
5 ways to beat seasonal depression
Relieve the anxiety and depression that comes with winter blues
Winter is painted as a happy season of fluffy white snow filled with evenings snuggling in front of a fireplace, days of shredding the slopes, nights of tobogganing and laughs with friends and loved ones over hot toddies. But for some people, the cold, short days can make them feel as though they can’t get out of bed in the morning, their mood as grey and grim as Toronto’s winter sky. If you feel lethargic, your mood has been lower than Mariah Carey’s neckline for more than a couple of weeks, and you’re not being the social butterfly that you usually are, it may be time to see your doctor. For less severe symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a few lifestyle changes could help you feel more like yourself again.
Spend time outdoors during the day
Fight the urge to hibernate inside all winter. Getting outside for some fresh air during the day, even if the sun is not shining, can do wonders for your mood. “I know it’s difficult to imagine putting on all those layers for a quick walk during your lunch hour, for example,” says Jesse Hanson, clinical director of Helix Healthcare Group in Toronto. “But when you commute in and out of work and it’s dark outside, and spend your weekends indoors, it doesn’t help your mental state to be clouded in darkness all the time.” He recommends taking advantage of what little daylight we have in the winter with a walk to help reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.
Eat to boost your mood
If you’re suffering from SAD, your level of serotonin, aka the feel-good hormone, has decreased. Hanson recommends a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids—think oily fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel—since these essential fatty acids will help boost your serotonin. Making sure you get enough omega-3s is also important because when you’re low in serotonin, your body will crave serotonin-production triggers in the form of sugary, processed carbs like doughnuts and pie. These high glycemic index foods will only send you on a rollercoaster of sugar highs followed by crashing, which may worsen your mood.
Maintain your usual schedule
You may not feel like you want to rise and shine when it’s pitch black outside, but you should aim to maintain your usual sleeping schedule and mealtimes so as to avoid overindulging in either. Which is not to say everything in your life should be routine, says Hanson. Plan for weekend getaways, try a new sport and get together with friends. “These activities will keep you going.”
Try light therapy
It may not fit your home decor but a light therapy lamp may become your favourite home acccessory. There are at-home lamps designed to mimic sunlight to lift your low mood. Hanson recommends a lamp that emits broad-spectrum light while filtering out most UV wavelength. He cautions that the lights are not regulated by Health Canada, so be sure to follow the lamp’s directions when it comes to how many minutes daily to use it.
Immerse yourself in a sound bath
Open to trying alternative therapies? Research online for a wellness centre near you that offers sound baths, which stimulate the body on a cellular level. During a session, you will sit in a pod-like bed as you listen to different types of sounds that create vibrations created to help relax you into an alpha brainwave state. Hanson, who has found this treatment effective for clients, says they often describe feeling a soaring or flying feeling after a sound bath.