It’s that time of year again. We’ve officially set our clocks back. Yeah, that one extra hour of sleep last Saturday night was much-needed, but you know what isn’t needed? Early darkness. Let the seasonal depression kick in.
If you’re anything like me, the winter season (specifically setting the clocks back) sets you into a spiraling depression that’s hard to control. And on top of real depression? Well, good luck, Charlie.
Recently, I’d been wondering whether or not seasonal depression was even real or if it was just some sort of placebo that millions of people across the globe all experience. But, per the Mayo Clinic, seasonal depression is medically known as seasonal affective disorder (otherwise known as SAD, great name), and it really does exist. Finally, Googling my symptoms has given me some sort of truth.
This year, I decided I don’t want to be sad this winter. I want to experience the bite of the Midwest’s wind on my neck and smile. I want to get off work at 5 PM and be alright that it’s as dark as summer’s midnight. I want to go to sleep at a reasonable hour instead of contemplating sleep at 7 PM just because it’s dark outside. So, I talked to some experts from various sources to learn how to try and combat seasonal depression, and I learned a lot.
Not only are these tips supposed to help, but some products below might make for great gifts for someone struggling with seasonal depression this winter. Find everything we discovered below.
Vitamin D Supplements
I heard a rumor a while back that vitamin D supplements are supposed to help with seasonal depression, so I started taking them without ever researching the facts. As it turns out, “Low levels of vitamin D, caused by low dietary intake of the vitamin or not enough exposure to sunshine, have been found in people with SAD,” says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. I recommend you don’t follow suit and copy me by taking them without doing the proper research, though. K Health Mental Health Services Clinical Director Whitley Lassen suggests that before starting vitamin D supplements, chat with your doctor and see if vitamin D supplements make sense for your lifestyle.
If your doctor does suggest these supplements, we recommend this Amazon favorite that has almost 100,000 5-star ratings.
Heather Wilson LCSW, LCADC, CCTP, the Executive Director at Epiphany Wellness in New Jersey, tells us just how effective light therapy can be during the winter. “Light therapy, also called phototherapy, involves sitting in front of a light box for 20 to 60 minutes each day,” Wilson tells us. “The light from the box is similar to natural sunlight and is thought to have a positive effect on brain chemicals linked to mood.” I’ve tried light therapy in the past and noticed it feels really nice when placed behind a curtain or window shades, so it feels like the actual sun. Hey, it could be a placebo, but it might not be. Give it a shot for yourself and see if it works for you.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, check out this Amazon best-seller below.
It seems obvious, but a few minutes of exercise each day during the winter months can significantly help your endorphins. “As much as we may not feel like doing it, exercising can help greatly in avoiding seasonal depression,” says Alyza Berman, a psychotherapist (LCSW, RRT-P) and the Founder & Clinical Director of The Berman Center. “It can have a positive impact on your mood, releasing endorphins to balance out the sadness and anxiety.” Lifting weights, hitting the treadmill and even going on walks are excellent ways to exercise during the season.
We’re huge fans of adjustable dumbbells and find them one of the easiest ways to get some exercise done. This option from Bowflex is a favorite of ours.
Keep a Healthy Diet
It might feel easier to eat unhealthy during the winter months for the sheer fact that, well, it’s comforting. But “maintaining a healthy diet is also necessary for both physical and mental health,” says Berman. Nutrient-dense foods are your friend if you’re experiencing SAD. I’m talking fruits, veggies, nuts and lean proteins like chicken and fish. Sure, sometimes you want to order Indian food and watch Netflix all night and that’s okay, but keeping the majority of your diet healthy is essential for not only your physical self, but your brain, too.
Spend Time in Sunlight
“Try and spend time outdoors during the day,” says Dr. Beth Pausic, psychologist & mental health expert from Hims & Hers. “While this can be more challenging for those living in colder climates, the light is beneficial.” The lack of sun is what makes me personally spiral in the first place. Therefore, spending some time in the sun before it sets is in your best interest to help keep your brain happy. The best time to spend outside in the sun is in the morning to get as many rays in as possible. Waiting until the end of the day when the sun is setting might make you feel like your day is over. Try getting outside on a walk before work and let the sun’s rays hit your skin.
Keep a Healthy Social Life
During the winter, you might fall into a rut of lonesomeness. This is not the way to tackle your seasonal depression. Keeping in touch with friends and family is important during any season, but extra important during the winter. Luckily, so many ways allow us to stay in touch with one another, even if it’s too cold to go outside. From texting to phone calls to FaceTime, keeping in touch technologically can even suffice for the time being.
One of our favorite methods of keeping in touch digitally in 2022 is by using the drop-in feature on our Amazon Echo Show devices. Connect with loved ones simply by calling them up using Alexa and seeing their faces easier than ever.
Talk to Someone
Last but not least, therapy might be needed to help combat SAD. “Sometimes we just need to express our feelings/experiences with a professional,” says Berman. “Therapy can help you to recognize those triggers and help you cope with anxiety and depression.” Sure, it might seem like a lot for those not currently in therapy to seek therapy due to seasonal sadness, but therapy is a helpful way to help folks figure out why they might be feeling a specific way. While nobody wants to be told to go to therapy, you simply might find some serious help from it.