Feeling blue? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing. As the days become shorter and darker, with cooling temperatures and less outside-time, many people’s moods slip into sadness. This is the time of year that millions of adults face the brand of depression that comes with the colder seasons. To try to help you boost your mood, we’ve put together five things you can do right now to help pull you out of your funk.
Express your gratitude
Writing a list of gratitudes each day puts our focus on what’s good in our lives. Try keeping a journal by your bed where you jot down at least five things you are grateful for at the end of each day. No matter what is going on in our lives, there is always something to be grateful for. Did the sun come up today? I am grateful for the sun. Cat hanging out in your lap? I am grateful for that cat. Did you have food in the cabinet to cook for lunch? I am grateful to have enough to eat. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing ten or even fifteen things that you appreciate. There’s no need to be stingy with your gratitudes, so let it flow. Do this daily and see how differently you feel after a few days.
Breathwork is a practice that’s had some buzz around it lately, but has its roots in ancient teachings. If you’ve taken yoga classes, there’s a good chance that you’ve already experienced pranayama, a yogic way of directing the breath. There are different forms of breathwork, from something as simple as sitting still and focusing on breathing deeply for a few quiet minutes to hours-long healing sessions. Generally, breathwork can help us to feel less depressed and reduce anxiety. It may also boost our joy and happiness, feed our creative spirits, and help us to let go of negativity. Because there are different types of breathwork—including holotropic, shamanic, and rebirthing—you may want to try a few before you settle on the one that is right for you. Expert teacher Erin Telford offers a simple breathwork practice to get you started that is under twenty minutes. Practicing regularly is the best bet for feeling better.
Be of service to others
Sometimes the greatest self-care is being of service to someone else. Helping communities or individuals gets us out of our own heads, and can make us feel better. As the saying goes, “In order to build self-esteem, you have to do esteemable acts.” Even as we socially distance, it’s still possible to be of service in myriad ways. Nonprofit organizations continue to offer volunteer positions with protocols to maintain safety. Or you may want to donate your used blankets and towels to an animal shelter that is in need. Whether you create an online support community for people with similar interests to yours, or cook meals for a sick friend, in helping out others we help ourselves.
Invest in a light box
Light boxes or “SAD lamps” have been shown to help people out of the SAD slump. The boxes are designed to provide bright artificial light that mimics real sunshine at dawn. Paul Desan, director of the Winter Depression Research Clinic at the Yale School of Medicine told the Washington Post: “there is very solid research that exposure to bright light first thing in the morning is a very powerful treatment for the majority of people with seasonal affective disorder.” Using a light box is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, so experts recommend seeking guidance from a mental health professional when assessing which box to buy, what time of day to use it, and for how long.
Get even moderate exercise
SAD is a form of depression, which can be helped with exercise. Studies have shown that physical activity will help lift the winter blues for many of us. Try bundling up and walking for 20-40 minutes, three times a week. Or stay inside and hop on a stationary bike for 30 minutes, four times a week. These simple workouts have been shown to significantly lift depressive symptoms. Evidence also shows that hatha yoga can alleviate the symptoms of depression. Since we’re now staying home to stay safe from Covid-19, you can get your mood-boosting om on online at Gaia or OmPractice, without leaving your house. Just two 90-minute classes a week can help fend off those winter blues.
If you believe that you are experiencing SAD, or any depressive symptoms, you should seek professional help.
Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.
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