How to Prevent Winter Depression? I hate winter. I really do. Everywhere I look is gray as where I live there isn’t much snow. The days are mostly cloudy, windy and it often rains as well. Most of the days, I stay at home and feel miserable. But, the good news is, I’ve had it enough! I decided to do something about my seasonal affective disorder. This fall and winter, I’ll follow virtually all the trusted useful advice I could get and make the gloomy months ahead bright, and fight that cold with a healthy dose of inner warmth and some lifestyle changes. Are you with me? If so, here’s what we can do! The days are short and dull. The nights are boring. And cold! I don’t smile as much as usual, let alone laugh. Exercise Regularly I loathe winter sports because, strangely enough, they are all played outside, in the snow. When I watch skiing or snowboarding on TV, I immediately turn up the heating. But hey, no need to go skiing after all! I’ve joined a local gym for some moderate exercise. The chances of becoming depressed are about 60% lower for people who are regularly active and give their bodies the workout they need. We’re not talking lifting heavy weights here, just moderate but regular brisk walks, stretching, table tennis, bowling, aerobics, Pilates or Zumba – whatever floats your boat will be fine. I’ve found out that exercise causes releasing of the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins. For most of us, the real value is in a low-intensity exercise which is sustainable over time. That kind of activity results in the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors. They cause the nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The undisputed fact is that the improvement in brain function makes us feel better. In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have discovered that the hippocampus in the brain (the region that helps regulate mood) is smaller than in healthy people. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression. Welcome As Many Sunny Days As They Come Go for a walk on as many sunny days as you can! I don’t go for walks in winter as I am skinny and I dread the cold. But, on a sunny day, I’m happy to get out of the house. Here’s the reason why! The sun will help with the synthesis of vitamin D which has been reported as an important factor that may have significant health benefits in the prevention and the treatment of depression. Although vitamin D has recently gained widespread attention, little information relative to its impact on mental disorders is available. For many people, sunshine or diet alone will not be sufficient in providing adequate amounts of vitamin D. There is evidence to suggest that supplementation may be necessary although no research has confirmed that vitamin D itself can be implemented in therapy or guarantee a successful outcome of depression treatment. The role that vitamin D supplementation should be an important area of future research because supplementation is affordable and readily available. I’ll be taking the trusted supplements nevertheless since I feel better with them than without them in my diet. As for a stroll in the sunshine in order to boost vitamin D synthesis, it can’t hurt, can it? If you hate the cold as much as I do, take a brisk walk and utilize the benefits of the sunlight while burning a few calories and feeling good about it at the same time. Brighten up your surroundings Get bright-colored curtains. Hang joyful paintings or drawings on your walls. I painted my walls bright and warm yellow a month ago, but you don’t have to go through great length if you dread painting. My walls needed a new coat of paint anyway. How about clothes and accessories? All my winter clothes are dark and gloomy colors because I subconsciously try to adapt to the environment. This year, I decided to go shopping with particular items in mind. I’ve bought a warm orange jacket and a matching hat. The colors really do make a difference as regards your mood. I try to put in more hours of work on my laptop but that makes things even worse. However, there is something you can do to brighten up your days in front of the screen. If you spend a lot of time at your computer, simply change your wallpaper. Use colorful spring or summer landscapes or beach scenes to remind you about the warmer and brighter seasons ahead. Another thing I did is bought two new lamps and installed brighter lights in my living room where I spend most of the time during the day. I’ve realized that if there is plenty of light around me, the gloomy fall and winter days don’t bother me as much as they used to. Socialize More During The Fall And Winter I used to miss most of the social gatherings, again because I hate the cold. I used to decline so many invites just because I would need to wear lighter clothes underneath my warm coat and once I took off my coat, I’d feel even colder. So I often stayed at home wearing two sweaters, woolen socks and, when no one was around, I sometimes wore a scarf, as well. Not a sexy look, I’ll tell you. But then I realized that I truly miss seeing friends or socializing with people I don’t really know that well. It occurred to me that neither of the two groups would give a damn how I look as long as I’m good fun. So, to start with, I’ve joined evening cooking lessons so I’ll be hosting more dinners at home and possibly meet a few interesting people along the way. Also, I’ve made reminders of all my friends’ and work colleagues’ birthdays. For one thing, I’ll be looking forward to choosing gifts and when invited to a party, I’ll be ready and happy to go, instead of making up some lame excuse in order to stay at home and see the end of a peanut butter jar while watching reruns of Friends. Then there are also winter holidays and that festive spirit will surely lift you up. I myself have only recently started looking forward to the holidays, rather than getting anxious at the very thought of them. I used to dread Christmas shopping, for example, but then I decided to bring a close friend and turn the “chore” into an enjoyable all-day fun ride with coffee breaks, some catching up about what’s new in our lives and a nice lunch or dinner together afterward. Cut Down On Alcohol Simply put, alcohol is a depressant and any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the winter blues. There’s also a strong link between excessive alcohol use and depression in general, including the winter blues. So, does regular drinking lead to depression, or are depressed people more likely to drink too much? Well as it turns out, both are true to a certain extent. Drinking will only make any type of depression, including seasonal, worse. If you tend to get depressed and drink too much, you will have more frequent and more severe episodes of depression. It seems that if you regularly drink too much (including ‘binge drinking’), alcohol will make you feel more depressed, especially in gloomy seasons such as fall and winter. Alcohol decreases the levels of serotonin and, as a result of this, a cyclical process begins where you drink to relieve depression. As a result, the serotonin levels in the brain drop some more, making you feel even more depressed. Then, you need even more alcohol to deal with the depression So if you intentionally drink to relieve seasonal depression, it will, eventually, only get worse. Alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression and the only way to break this vicious circle is either to be very moderate or not drink alcohol at all. By all means, you can enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a beer but bear in mind not to test your limits, especially in the gloomy seasons of the year and knowing that you are prone to seasonal mental disorders. Entertain Yourself The last but not the least, entertainment may be of tremendous help in less than cheerful months once the summer comes to an end. Make a list of movies you missed, preferably feel-good comedies, light thrillers or whatever you like. You and your partner or family can have many enjoyable evenings with light healthy snacks and a great movie on. Catch up on the latest best-sellers and read them over the course of fall and winter. Exchange your thoughts and impressions with a friend over a coffee. Play upbeat, cheerful, soothing or any kind of music that makes you feel good and brings you joy and relaxation. Organize an evening of board-games or any other games with your family and friends. In a nutshell, enjoy and look forward to each and every day ahead of you. I’m certainly making sure I will do the same with a little planning, positive thinking, and a new optimistic mindset!