5 Easy Ways to Avoid the Winter Blues

March 1, 2014 Last Updated: March 1, 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues, is a very common problem for women and people with a history of depression.

According to research, 6 percent of people the United States, primarily in northern climates, are affected by SAD, and another 14 percent suffer from winter blues, a lesser form.

Symptoms include the following:

      • Slowing down 

 

      • Having a hard time waking up in the morning

 

      • Decreased energy levels 

 

      • Eating more than usual, which can lead to weight gain 

 

      • Sleeping more 

 

      • Being less able to concentrate 

 

      • Withdrawing from friends and family, causing work and relationships to suffer

But why suffer? Here are five easy holistic solutions to help reduce SAD or winter blues while at the same time enhancing your health. 

1. Nutrition

Watch your nutrition, especially your intake of iron, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. Though our bodies produce vitamin D in response to sunlight, during the winter months, we can experience a deficiency in vitamin D as we spend less time outdoors. Ask your doctor about vitamin D supplements. 

Also, if you shiver your way through winter, this could be a symptom of anemia or low iron. So increase your intake of leafy greens and again check your iron levels at your next doctor’s visit. Last but not least, improve your mental health by upping the ante of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon.

2. Exercise 

Exercise is not only essential for physical health but also mental health. When we aren’t in motion, our minds can automatically start to shut down and enter a mode of depression. Many doctors regard exercise as a highly effective antidepressant. Below are four exercises you can do right now, at your desk.

V for Victory. This exercise can help raise your energy levels. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor. Raise your arms up into a V-shape with fists tight and thumbs extended out. Take short equal in-and-out breaths through your nose (which sounds like a train going up a mountain). 

Make sure the amount of air taken in equals the amount exhaled so you increase your oxygen intake while maintaining homeostasis. Continue for 30 seconds. Build up to 1 minute. At the end, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and feel your body.

Chop Wood. This exercise helps increase circulation. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers, and straighten your arms in front. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead, passing your ears, and as exhale, lower your arms to waist height. Continue for 1 minute. Build up to 3 minutes. At the end, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and feel your body.

Brain Balance. Do this exercise for better focus. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor. Put your hands in prayer pose, resting them on your sternum. Inhale. As exhale, straighten your arms out in front with palms facing forward and fingers pointing up. As you inhale, bring your arms out to the sides, keeping each arm straight and fingers pointing up.

As you exhale, return the arms out front. As inhale, return to the prayer pose on your sternum. Continue for 1 minute. Build up to 3 minutes. At the end, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and feel your body.

Nerves of Steel. This exercise can help you handle challenges. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor, arms straight out to the sides, palms facing down. As you make small circles backward with your arms, repeat the short, equal in-and-out breaths as in the “V for Victory” exercise above. Continue for 30 seconds. Build up to 1 minute. At the end, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and feel your body.

3. Plants 

Surround yourself with houseplants. For hundreds of years, people have been bringing evergreen trees, holly, and wreaths into their homes during the grayest parts of the year. Ever wonder why? 

Green plants make us feel better. So today, take one step against those winter blues by getting some bright-green, colorful plants. It will make a bigger difference than you may think.

4. Light-Therapy Box 

The same instinct that leads us to surround ourselves with green plants in winter also makes us crave light, which is why almost all winter holidays involve lights or candles. Can’t get a light box? Then schedule a walk around the block midday on the sunny side of the street. That will give you two benefits—light and exercise—rolled into one.

5. Aromatherapy Baths 

And while we’re on a roll, here are another two benefits rolled into one. This combines the effects of aromatherapy (fragrance therapy) with hydrotherapy (water therapy). 

Interestingly, a lot of the same scents we associate with the holidays have powerful antidepressant properties: peppermint, frankincense, and rosemary are good ones to try. The University of Maryland Medical Center also suggests using the oils of rose, orange, bergamot, lavender, and sandalwood.

Put a few drops of essential oil into a hot bath. I like Young Living Essential Oils and in winter, I especially like their blend called RC.

This article is provided for information only and is not meant to prescribe medical care. Please consult a physician for treatment of any medical problems.

Michele Risa is an expert in holistic preventative medicine, combining nutrition, yoga, meditation, and emotional intelligence in private consultations and corporate programs. She’s an author, speaker, and TV producer. As an American Heart Association Ambassador, Risa can explain how your company can become recognized as “Fit-Friendly”. MRisa@BeyondBodyMindSpirit.com