Updated March 19, 20By living in the Pacific Northwest, we get to relish in long, sun-soaked summer evenings that seem to stretch into eternity. On the flip side? We put up with dark and dreary winters that also seem to stretch into eternity. Maybe even beyond.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a very real concern, and its effects leave many feeling lethargic, withdrawn and blue. Don’t despair – there are ways you can alleviate seasonal sadness. It’s time to view this time of year in a whole new, positive light.
Ditch a “dragging” diet
Limit your intake of energy-zapping simple carbs. Instead, load up on proteins and seasonal veggies. When feeling down, try mood-lifting foods like oranges and papaya (high in vitamin B6 and folic acid), sashimi of wild salmon, mackerel and arctic char (high in omega-3 levels, low in mercury) and even chocolate. Also, consider taking tips from other cultures. Saffron is used in both traditional Persian medicine and Tibetan healing practices.
Let there be light
Get as much natural daylight as possible. If you can, take a lunchtime walk. During those interminable gray stretches, indulge in light therapy with special bulbs that mimic the sun’s rays (without the UV). Light boxes run the gamut in pricing and sophistication. Sit by it (without looking directly into it) for 10 to 30 minutes as soon as you can after waking up.
Get your Zzzzs
Get your 7-8 hours consistently. Do what you need to do to make it a priority: stop drinking coffee in the afternoon, cut back on alcohol, put your phone down already, or talk to your doctor about medication. It’s that important.
Move that body
Getting motivated to exercise can be challenging when it’s dark and cold out, but there are proven benefits to maintaining a year-round routine. If spending hours on a treadmill seems too tedious, join a bright-walled yoga studio, or sign up for animated group classes like Zumba. Alternatively, take advantage of this region’s countless ski and snowshoe trails. Just think, when it’s raining here, it’s likely snowing somewhere nearby!
Fake it til you make it
Channel your imaginative side and find ways to pretend it’s balmy and tropical. Hang out in your gym’s sauna, or sweat it out in a Bikram Yoga studio. Alternatively, get Zen in steam rooms at local bathhouses like Seattle’s Banya 5 or the women-only Olympus Spa.
Take your daily dose
Smoothies and salads won’t cut it like they did in the hot months, but make sure to keep consuming 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day for the energizing vitamins. Supplements of B-complex vitamins and vitamin D can also improve energy levels. Talk to your doctor.
Fight hibernation and isolation
We know it’s dark at 5:00, but try to stay connected to friends, family, and your regular activities. See live music. Check out local culture and art. Join adult sports leagues. Volunteer within your local community. Odds are that activities like these will help you maintain a sunnier disposition.
*If your depression lingers or feels too intense to handle on your own, never be afraid to seek the help of a trained professional. You are not alone!