Each year as the Solstice approaches, the sun diminishes and many animals go into hibernation while birds take flight to warmer locales. For human beings who remain in the colder, wetter climates, this can lead to winter blues or seasonal affective disorder. For some, winter blues are a time to turn inward for self-discovery and reflection. For others, the blues turn black engulfing people with seasonal affective disorder, SAD, a form of clinical depression.
“In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurge of nature.” Edna O’Brien
Below I’ve offered tips for beating winter blues with self-awareness, and my Spiritual Seekers writing partner, Laurie, has offered practical treatment suggestions for coping with SAD. You may also want to explore the book, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, by clicking on the image above.
Use Self-Awareness to Beat Winter Blues
Follow the seasons. If animals, plants and trees have a tendency to hibernate or go dormant in winter, doesn’t it make sense that people would naturally wind down at this time as well? The more we tune into our natural cycles that follow the seasons, the less we judge and resist what is occurring. I’ve found that embracing my feminine, yin, nurturing energy in winter supports me to relax and rejuvenate so that I have more energy when spring arrives. Trying to go, go, go and be productive all year round is tiring. It’s unfortunate that most societies don’t support downward, inward times without labeling them as a problem or illness. Being inward is a part of the life process. Stop judging yourself for having winter blues, and use it as an opportunity to nurture and nourish yourself.
Explore yourself through journaling. Being indoors, huddled up underneath blankets, while it rains or snows outdoors is a wonderful time for introspection. I’ve found that by simply writing down my current thoughts and feelings I touch into deeper insights about myself, my beliefs, my patterns, my relationships, what makes my heart sing, what triggers my reactivity, and what I want to focus on for the next year. Journaling is also cathartic way to release heavier emotions like anger and sadness. I often feel lighter and more joyful after a journaling session.
Deepen your spirituality. When we are solely focused externally on other people, projects and the comings and goings of the world, we spend less time connecting to our spiritual center. This can naturally lead to feeling blue. Winter provides the down time to meditate, pray, discover our spiritual essence, communicate with the God of our heart, and deepen spirituality. As we nurture our spiritual health, we touch into the lightness of our soul.
If your winter blues are more serious, read on for Laurie’s tips for dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
8 Tips for Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
1. Get plenty of natural sunlight: Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are triggered by lack of exposure to light. Take a daily walk or exercise outdoors, both are proven mood lifters.
2. Purchase a light box: The light box provides a measured amount of balanced spectrum light equivalent to standing outdoors on a clear spring day. This has been shown to help regulate the body clock. The light from the box can help synchronize sleep/wake patterns.
3. Avoid sugary snacks: Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are a natural treatment for seasonal affective disorder or depression because they stabilize energy.
4. Exercise regularly: Staying fit and keeps your metabolism burning fat and calories. This increases your natural “feel good” endorphins, which helps fight Seasonal Affective Disorder.
5. Try the herbal supplement Rhodiola rosea: It’s an herb proven to fight the symptoms of SAD such as depression and loss of energy. Rhodiola has also been shown to normalize the functions of the body.
6. Eat low-fat dairy products: When cooking hearty dishes in the winter months; reach for skim milk instead of whole milk. Natural treatments for depression like this will help keep your weight down, too!
7. Avoid butter, margarine, and high salt intake: Season your foods with olive oil, fresh herbs and spices instead. The food will actually taste better, and you’ll avoid extra fat and calories. For more info on how food affects your mood, read The Best Foods to Improve Your Mood.
8. Supplement your Vitamin D: Vitamin D is produced when the sun’s rays hit the skin, making deficiencies common in winter. Supplementing your vitamin D has been proven to boost overall mood.
How do you overcome the winter blues – have you tried anything that works? We welcome your comments and questions below!
To help release symptoms of depression, you might find help with The Sedona Method.