How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter
November 9th, 2022
Do you love scraping ice off your car at 7 in the morning? Do you just love jumping out of bed when it’s 20 degrees outside your covers? Or how about everyone's favorite; getting out of work just in time for the sun to set. With all of the fun that comes with winter, it might be shocking to hear that some people tend to feel a little down during this season. If you’re one of the lucky ones who was built for cold (people who ski with jeans on) then this article is not for you. But if you’re a little like us and find yourself browsing on Amazon for lamps that contain 10 times the power of the sun, we think you should keep reading.
Winter's arrival comes as a newfound shock every year. We are shocked when the sun is allowed to set as early as it does. We are shocked when the temperature first drops below 40. We think enough prayers and warm thoughts can make the season go away. Yet somehow every year we find ourselves yet again throwing out our backs in our driveway under the weight of the snow. Our hesitance towards winter's arrival may offer a small reason why it makes us so sad... But I think there’s more to explore and more informational ammo we can use to combat this season’s depressive tendencies.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and Why Does It Happen?
The lack of sunlight we are exposed to, directly affects the levels of mood-balancing chemicals in our brain. And in the case of seasonal affective disorder, the chemical we are deprived of the most is serotonin. Serotonin comes from sources like sunlight, exercise, and diet.
It may be comforting to know that seasonal affective disorder doesn’t come around because we are pessimistic winter haters. It is actually the direct result of an imbalanced brain.
I mean, hey, maybe Scrooge just had seasonal affective disorder.
Here are 5 techniques we will dive into that you can use to help fight off the winter blues:
How do these images make you feel?
What emotions do these images elicit for you? A sense of safety, comfort, joy? Well this concept, known as 'hygge', is actually what gets the Danes through their long harsh winters.
What is Hygge?
It is a concept, a word, and a lifestyle all in one, called, "hygge." Hygge means to create a warm and cozy atmosphere and to enjoy the good things in life with good people. It emphasizes our access to comfort and warmth during a season that tries so hard to take that away.
Examples of Hygge
- A warm meal
- A blazing fire
- A hot beverage like tea or hot chocolate
- Cozy socks
- A winter stroll while all bundled up
- Cozy, warm lighting
- Warm blankets
Winter doesn’t seem so scary anymore, does it?
Instead of focusing on what we lack in the winter, hygge highlights the adorable ways we cope with it. The more we spend thinking about how cozy winter can be, the less we spend thinking about how damn cold we are. And for that, hygge is a great frame of mind to enter the season with.
Ways you can live 'hygge'
- Plan to make a cozy home cooked meal once a week with friends or family. Play soft dinner music, light candles, and enjoy glasses of red wine all in the comfort of your home.
- Hang up some Christmas lights around the house
- Buy seasonal scented candles
- Make your bed into a nest of soft blankets
- Get a pair of fuzzy socks
- Simmer winter herbs (cinnamon, orange peel, pine, ginger, etc.) on the stovetop to make your friends think you’re one of Martha Stewart’s disciples
- Start a new book and enjoy it with a warming beverage
- Eat warm, seasonal foods
- Go on walks while nestled in your winter layers
- Wear soft, comfy clothing
- Play a board game with friends and/or family
- Watch a movie and get cozy on the couch
- Go on a drive around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights
- Listen to old music
- Walk around a cute town and pop into all the shops
Now that we’ve cozied ourselves up for the winter season, let’s talk about ways we can lean into this season instead of white-knuckling against it.
2. Understanding winter's role in nature as a time for hibernation
Winter, a time when all of nature gets permission to rest for three full months... Except for, well, the human race. We kind of get left out of that whole deal because we participate in society.
But that doesn’t mean nature has forgotten this. Your fatigue and lack of motivation are symptoms of fighting against our natural (sleepy) instincts. Winter is an essential part of the cycle of growth and rebirth in the natural world. And in this cycle, periods of dormancy and slowness are essential in order to thrive and flourish.
So, rather than viewing winter as a time we must fight through, we need to lean into the natural state of being this season brings.
Ways to lean into winter and stop fighting against it
- Don’t add more responsibilities to your plate
- Stop multitasking
- Take time to practice more self-care. It is more important now than ever.
- Take time to slow down and move away from being in a constant state of busyness
- Emphasize comfort: wear comfortable clothes & drink warm beverages
- Get out of the ‘deadline’ mentality. No one will die… I promise.
- Sleep. Rest. Lay. And do it all without guilt. That is what this season is here for. Do you think the bears in their den are concerned they’ve been lying around too much?
- See winter as a time to restore the energy we expended during the summer months
- Give yourself permission to do less. All of nature has permission, why are we the only exception? Hint: We’re not
- Rest. Fighting the natural rhythm of the season will leave you feeling more fatigued than not
- The power of saying no. Don’t drag yourself out of the house after 7 p.m. for a party you don’t want to go to. You’ll feel much better listening to your natural inward pull
3. Winter as a time for nourishment and rejuvenation
When our brains are all out of whack and our sleep cycles are confused as all hell, our need to fill in the gaps becomes top priority. Believe it or not, through diet and lifestyle choices, we can work to fill the gaps brought on by the winter season.
Pillars of nourishment in the winter
- Sun exposure: Keep your blinds open at all times to let that natural light in. If you live in a place like Seattle, consider purchasing a small version of the sun in the form of a SAD lamp.
- Proper sleep: You don’t have to be a grandparent to get a free pass on going to bed before 7 p.m.
- Diet: Eat warm meals whenever possible. Lean heavily into nourishing stews and comforting pasta meals
- Supplementation: Take vitamin D supplements for lack of sun, vitamin B for energy, and functional mushrooms to help you combat fatigue and holiday stress. (Disclaimer: Although always consult with your doctor before taking anything new)
- Movement: Get stale energy out through movement. It doesn’t have to be a Crossfit class, just any old walk will do.
- Self-care includes taking lots of warm baths, applying lotion and oil to your chapped skin, and always wearing a fuzzy robe and socks.
After reading this article, we hope you can find healthy ways to help combat this season's case of the winter blues. Winter doesn’t have to loom over our heads anymore. Now we have tools like, embracing hygge, leaning into the hibernation period, and making sure we take extra time to nourish ourselves accordingly. This season is all about embracing the winter for what it is and what it brings forward, not what we wish it could be like.