Do you tend to feel the winter blues? Is anyone you know suffering from bouts of depression that seem to worsen at this time each year? It’s quite possible that SAD is the culprit. An acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD is a condition defined by depression that occurs during the same season every year.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), “researchers think that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. Light therapy is the main treatment for SAD. Medications and Psychotherapy (talk therapy) may help reduce symptoms.” There are also many simple, yet effective activities that can help with symptoms associated with SAD.
Here are three effective ways to overcome feelings of depression during the winter:
1. Take leisurely winter walks.
CAMH notes that SAD can be triggered by changes in the amount of sunlight. Researchers theorize that sunlight changes can upset a person’s biological clock. This can impact sleep-wake patterns. During the winter, days tend to be shorter. Most people aren’t particularly fans of taking walks when the sun isn’t out. Therefore, it would be wise to make the most of when the sun is shining and get outside. Both the exercise and fresh air can do you a lot of good.
“When going outside, all your senses are stimulated,” informs Ontario Parks, “Listen to your senses observing the shapes in nature, smelling the scent of pine trees and feeling of the brisk winter air on your cheeks. Using these senses outdoors helps calm our minds, boost our self-esteem, and improve concentration.”
2. Eat more vitamin D-rich foods.
Known as “the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining bones, teeth and optimal immune function. Low vitamin D levels are also known to increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is another reason to take to the great outdoors when the sun is out. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in our skin cells to provide the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur.
Alternatively, you could eat more vitamin D-rich foods to help better your mental and physical health. Health Canada reports that Canada’s food guide recommends eating fatty fish to get a nutritional source of vitamin D. We’re talking salmon, arctic char and rainbow trout. The guide also lists egg yolk, soft margarine, unsweetened lower fat milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages as other good sources of vitamin D.
3. Start an indoor workout routine.
If you’re not a fan of the cold, you’re not alone. You can be forgiven for being hesitant about taking winter walks. However, disliking frigid temperatures is no reason you can’t stay active. Joining a gym or even setting up a workout station in your home is an ideal way to both keep in shape and ward off the winter blues. It is medically proven that exercise can boost your mood.
“Physical activity is a natural stress reliever,” asserts Caelie Townsend of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that help reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise can also help reduce the levels of cortisol, the hormone that is released during stress. By reducing cortisol levels, exercise can help calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety.”
At SOS First Aid, we offer a Psychological First Aid course. It is a unique Red Cross program that helps people build resiliency and learn to cope with daily and long-term stress, loss, grief and trauma. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 905-844-9813. You may also email us at [email protected].[apss_share]