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Feeling Low? Here Are Ways to Shake Off the Winter Blues

DTC Thrasio

- Circadian Optics Brand Team

The start of the winter is such an exciting period thanks to all the holiday parties and celebrations that come with it. But once the holiday season is over, so does the beauty and laughter that's often tied to that time of year. Some people are simply burned out from the holidays or end-of-the-year projects, while others seriously miss partying and also being close to loved ones. What's left is quietness, quite a bit of grayness, chilliness, and all the time in the world to allow in the winter blues. The mid-winter season also brings some of the coldest, darkest, and dreariest months of the year, making many people want to hibernate socially.

While nearly everyone goes through the winter blahs, some experience serious symptoms of depression in winter, as we're going to see later on. The good news is there are several solutions for beating the winter blues, starting with using a light therapy lamp to add more light to your life on a dark, cloudy day. Read on to learn more about the winter time blues, including causes, symptoms, tips to help depression, etc.

What is Winter Blues?

The winter season is characterized by shorter days and cold, dark weather. The overall mood is so gloomy that many struggle to maintain a happy, healthy mindset. It's common for people to start experiencing feelings of hopelessness, sadness, having less energy, and a lack of motivation that's difficult to shake. This is what we've learned to call winter blues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Vs. Winter Blues

As you read about winter time blues, a common word you'll come across is Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a more extreme version of winter blues. It's also called winter depression, since the symptoms are usually more severe. SAD is characterized by a persistently low mood that can affect one's emotional well-being and even impair your performance at work, school, or even social relationships. Other symptoms of depression in the winter include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in what you usually enjoy doing
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Feelings of despair, worthlessness, pessimism, guilt, hopelessness, or having low self-esteem

Unlike winter blues, SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, meaning it doesn't necessarily occur in winter; it could also happen in summer. Another difference is it's much easier to shake off the blues. SAD, on the other hand, may require treatment from a medical professional.

Reasons for Winter Blues

Experts don't fully understand what causes the winter blues, but have linked it to reduced or lack of sunlight.

Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin levels, one of the feel-good hormones that promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love. On the other hand, darkness triggers the brain to make melatonin, which is also known as the sleep-inducing hormone. Since winter is characterized by dark, cloudy days, serotonin levels can dip while melatonin increases, resulting in low moods, sleepiness, lethargy, changes in appetite, etc.

Secondly, our bodies use sunlight to time various internal functions, such as when we wake up and go to sleep. This is known as the body's internal clock (circadian rhythm). Lower light levels during winter may disrupt this internal clock and lead to symptoms of depression caused by lack of sunlight.

Last but not least, we tend to be confined indoors during winter given the cold weather outside. Social isolation makes winter blues even worse as it increases the risk of stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and winter blues depression.

How to Fight the Winter Blues

Take advantage of natural light

As mentioned earlier, the lack of sunlight is the leading cause of the winter blahs. Needless to say, one of the most effective ways to take off the blues is to take advantage of whatever sunlight there is. Stay outdoors as much as possible as this will help boost your melatonin and serotonin levels. And when you're indoors, let in as much natural light as possible.

Stick to a schedule

Anything that strengthens your internal body clock will help boost moods, sleep, and energy levels, thus shaking off depression. So, try to eat, sleep, and wake up on a regular schedule.

Light therapy for winter blues

A light therapy box mimics natural sunlight, thus increasing the production of mood-boosting serotonin and other neurotransmitters, as well as strengthening your circadian rhythm. You'll need to sit in front of the lightbox for about 20-30 minutes, while having breakfast or working at your desk. Make sure you are exposed to the light as soon as possible after waking up. This is shown to be one of the most successful ways that may help in treating winter blues depression.

Use a dawn flight simulator

Humans are used to waking up when the sun is up and not so much when it's still dark outside. An effective tool to help you wake up is a dawn flight simulator. These devices work like alarm clocks. But rather than waking you up with beeping sounds or loud music, they produce light that gradually intensifies. You can set it about half an hour before you are scheduled to wake up. There are so many options to choose from, but the best dawn light simulators use full-spectrum light, which closely resembles natural sunlight. In fact, these are just as effective as light therapy for winter depression.

Eat smarter

If you're wondering how to fight winter depression, food is a huge factor to consider. Certain foods like chocolate are mood-boosters, while others like candy, refined carbs, and processed foods provide temporary feelings of euphoria but eventually increase anxiety and depression. Consider clean eating by including proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats in your diet, and staying away from junk food. Complex carbs like whole grains are also essential for boosting energy levels.

Get regular exercise

Multiple studies have shown that this is one of the best winter depression tips. Exercise boosts endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. It also helps alleviate stress and anxiety. Even going for a brisk walk every day can help.

Stay social

The cold, the snow, and the lack of sunlight often make us want to hibernate during winter. But isolation can increase feelings of loneliness, depression, and other negative emotions. So, find things to look forward to when depressed that will keep you connected with others, like throwing a party, playing winter sports, hanging out with friends and family, going on vacation, etc.

When to Talk to A Doctor

While it's normal to feel low, lack energy, and be unmotivated some days, it's important to see a doctor if these symptoms persist and don't pass naturally. You may have SAD or winter depression. Like any other form of depression, not treating these symptoms can result in bigger health problems later on, like mental health issues, substance abuse, etc. Shaking depression is not very straightforward. While you can use the above depression tips and tricks, it's best to get assistance from a medical professional who may prescribe antidepressants or offer cognitive behavioral therapy.

Conclusion

It's common to feel down in the dumps, especially in winter. But you don't have to slide into a wintery slump. And the above winter blues tips are a great way to start. Here at Circadian Optics, we have a collection of light therapy lamps that are effective at mimicking daylight sun and ensuring user safety by filtering out virtually all UV light to avoid damaging your eyes. You've seen how getting light at the right time, especially during winter, boosts energy, improves your mood, regulates sleep, and ensures overall health. Cash in on all these benefits today with the best light therapy lamps.