Infected by the Winter Blues? Here’s 6 Tips to Regain the Joy!

Research shows that one in three suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also known as Winter depression. In fact, 29 percent of all adults are affected by some degree of depression during the winter months.

On May 16, 1898, the intrepid Arctic explorer Frederick A. Cook made the following notation in his journal: “The winter and the darkness have slowly but steadily settled over us… It is not difficult to read on the faces of my companions their thoughts and their moody dispositions… The curtain of blackness which has fallen over the outer world of icy desolation has also descended upon the inner world of our souls. Around the tables… men are sitting about sad and dejected, lost in dreams of melancholy from which, now and then, one arouses with an empty attempt at enthusiasm. For brief moments, some try to break the spell by jokes, told perhaps for the fiftieth time. Others grind out a cheerful philosophy; but all efforts to infuse bright hopes fail.”

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Over the last few week, I’ve been visited by the winter blues – more than once – and it’s not a welcomed visit, in any way.

I’ve always identified myself as “one of the lucky ones”. I’ve never really had to deal with depression or prolonged sadness, but I do get the occasional winter blues. As the days gets shorter and I don’t get as much natural sunlight as I need, I sometimes find myself in an unwanted negative mind-frame; feeling sad, unmotivated and SUPER tired. To be fair, some of my current mood-changes, might also be due to pregnancy hormones.

But as a soon-to-be-mom, with a lot of goals yet to conquer – preferably before the baby comes – I don’t feel like spending prolonged periods of time soaking in misery and sleeping my days away… therefor I’ve revisited some of my all-time favorite remedies and tips to help me conquer the winter blues faster, so I can get back to being happy, excited, energetic and focused again. Winter should – in my opinion – be spend on hygge*, warm tea, spending time with loved-ones and enjoying the comfort of a warm home.

Here are my 6 tips to regain the joy:

#1 Allowing myself to feel any sad emotions.

I find that whenever I feel sad, deflated, insecure or otherwise down, I need to allow myself to be in the moment and in the feeling. If I try to force myself out of my sadness, I only end up feeling worse.

I allow myself to go through the emotion, the ugliness and the despair, and often I emerge on the other side quicker and with ease, then when I try to ignore or suppress my true emotions.

#2 When I find myself SAD.

Seasonal changes in the amount of daylight affect our brain, lowering serotonin. For some people less sunlight also means less dopamine, which is a brain activator. Dopamine is the ‘search’ chemical that makes you joyful, hungry for knowledge, and dauntless in seeking out something good to eat. Most SAD sufferers will benefit from a high-carbohydrate diet.

Which leads me to the next tip…

#3 I pay more attention to what I eat.

I make sure to eat the “right” kind of carbohydrates… This might seem weird to some, but “There’s a hypothesis that carbs can help your brain produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates moods”, explains Judith J. Wurtman, Ph.D., the author of The Serotonin Power Diet.

This is a new concept to me, but I’m willing to give it a try. When you dive deeper into the research it begins to make sense. Whatever I can do to stay happy and prevent future sadness, I’m willing to give a try.

Check out some SAD Meals to Make You Happy.

If you want to read more on this topic, here’s a link with all the information you need.

Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs. When I feel unprovoked and lingering sadness, I make sure to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, that I otherwise don’t get through my daily diet.

Some of the goodies that I recommend you consider is:

Valerian: A herbal remedy created from dried roots, often taken as a sleep aid and sometimes used for anxiety.

Lavender: Aromatherapy, essential oils, and teas use lavender to enhance relaxation and help relieve anxiety and depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in cold-water fish and certain vegetable oils, and available as a supplement, omega-3 fatty acids are sometimes used to help depression and other psychological problems.

B vitamins: Essential for cell metabolism and central nervous system maintenance.

Oranges and papaya are high in vitamin B6 and folic acid, both of which have been found to be lacking in patients who suffer from depression.

Vitamin D: Although not enough evidence exists to make any claims about the effectiveness of vitamin D as a mood enhancer, at least one study reported benefits from vitamin D in treating SAD.

NB! ALWAYS consult with a medical professional before you consume any of the supplements listed in this article.

Chocolate oh chocolate. I love chocolate – and I know I’m not the only one – therefor it makes my heart smile, knowing that eating the right kind of chocolate (and the right amount) helps me get in a better mood… and it’s not just because of the good taste ─ chocolate has been scientifically proven to improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness.

>>In a recent review of eight studies that assessed chocolate on mood, five showed an improvement in mood. In another study, healthy subjects felt calmer and more content after consuming a daily dark chocolate drink containing a high amount of polyphenols. Those drinking a placebo chocolate drink containing no polyphenols, on the other hand, experienced no changes in mood. Compared to chocolate without polyphenols, high-polyphenol chocolate was also shown to improve depression and anxiety as well as other symptoms in people with chronic fatigue syndrome in another study. << Link to the entire article!

#4 Create hygge* on the dark days.

*The Danish word describing a feeling of comfort and contentment, as well as indulging in all the good things and people in your life.

As a Dane, I’m a strong believer in hygge and the benefits of it. The long dark days of winter (and the lack of sun) can really tear on my mood, and Spring can seem like an eternity away… but, if I allow myself to really dive into the coziness of winter and indulge in all the different ways of creating hygge, the darkness always turns into an asset instead of a disadvantage.

There are many ways of creating hygge… it all depends on personal preference and taste.

I personally like to either; make a kop of tea or coffee, put on some relaxing music, snuggle up in a blanket and read a good book. Or, I like to invite a few good friends over, eat an amazing meal, drink some wine and enjoy some good conversation.

Those are some of my favorite ways of creating hygge, but there are tons of options. It can basically be anything that leaves you with a feeling of comfort, security and contentment.

#5 Allow myself a quiet moment of reflection.

Whenever I feel sad, I want to understand what it is that triggered my emotion and hopefully figure out some kind of solution to my discomfort. A perfect way to do that, is to be quiet and allow my thoughts to figure out the answer.

Often, I prefer to just sit quietly for a few minutes and reflect on my life, my circumstances and what I might need to change going forward… But, meditation also works wonders when it comes to understanding myself on a deeper level.

Many times, what brought on the feeling of sadness might just be that I’ve ignored my thought for too long, that I’ve been swept up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and that I need to reconnect with the present moment and take a pause to just listen to whatever thought that might show up in that moment.

#6 I get some fresh air (and hopefully a few rays of sunshine).

Taking a walk, is such a no brainer for me, when it comes to getting myself out of a funk, but unfortunately, I often forget it when I feel down and sad.

But – without fail – as soon as I get on my warm gear and step outside I feel a huge shift in my mood… and after walking for a minimum of 10 min I begin to feel the negativity evaporate from my mind… and to speed up the process even more and to ensure an amazing result, I make sure to take a walk with my boyfriend or someone I feel comfortable with. Having someone to talk to, analyze things with, laugh with or just walk in silence with, is a sure way to boost my mood.

According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom:

“Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster. Our findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone’s daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.” Researchers evaluated 1,991 participants from the Walking for Health program in England, which helps facilitate nearly 3,000 weekly walks and draws more than 70,000 regular walkers a year.

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