How to Get Through Long, Depressing Winters
Considering that I am writing this in May, It may seem a bit out of season. But my best advice is to bookmark this is write it down to prep for nest winter.
I come from sunny Los Angeles and lived for many years in cold and rainy Berlin. I know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing. It often gets worse with every winter.
First, let me say that there is NOTHING wrong with you. Winter is a hard time for everyone. It is the energy and nature of the season. It is representative of death. It is ok for a couple of months to just do thing s that only sustain you and don't make you grow or thrive. This is the natural order of things.
Only sunshine makes a desert. This is also true for our emotional landscape. Humans are SUPPOSED to feel sadness, along with happiness. So understand that feeling down or not as energetic or perky is perfectly normal.
The key to fighting off winter blues is to maintain a standard of living. Get what you need in order to not feel so bad. Remember the good nutrition and regular exercise is always a part of that.
If you care considering medication for you SAD, you may want to look at you lifestyle and make changes there first. Antidepressants are no small thing and greatly affect the chemistry of your brain. Always go the natural route first.
Routines that greatly helped me through long depressing winters in Berlin
Weekly Wellness Regimen
Write out on a card what makes you happy. I had a weekly to-do list for self care: one bath, one night if burgers and beer with a friend, call two family members, one sauna trip.
Actually write it out and post it somewhere, like the kitchen, bathroom mirror or your desk.
The List had about 10 things on it. There were things that truly brought me more joy, like dancing in the mirror and hanging out with my friends. It’s easy to get cooped up inside the house. Seeing those that you love and doing things that you enjoy will bring you along way. Most weeks I didn’t hit all ten items but I hit seven or eight. And that greatly improves life quality
Access to a great sauna is a key part of enjoying winter. Heating up and sweating releases a host of neurotransmitters to make you feel joy more and more often. Because that struggle to stay in the sauna is so great and so uncomfortable, it in turn make the endocrine uptake more sensitive. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a large body of information on this very topic.
Also, going back and forth from extreme hot to extreme cold is not only good for the skin but good for the body. It builds up resiliency and the boosts the immune system. The shock of sensations helps to release more epinephrine and norepinephrine - all those feel good chemicals.
Cod Liver Oil
This is a trick that I got from my Norwegian cousins. They drink a spoonful of cod liver oil every morning in the months that have an “R.” Not only does this provides TONS of Vitamin D, it also has A and a fair amount of omega 3. This is all good news for your mood, eyeballs, immune system and joints.
The benefits are so great, I would argue taking it year around. Just try to take the actual oil out of the bottle. In pill form, there is no way to tell if the oil has gone rancid or not. If the oil has turned, it will have an over wheeling smell and its effects will be greatly minimized.
Probably the last thing you want to do what you are feeling blue is go out for a walk. But walk can really improve things for you. Don’t bundle up too much, but do go outside and walk fast enough to keep you warm.
This is a mini sauna effect: starts out really cold then warm you up. Brick walks do wonder for the body and the mood. If you can't just go out for a walk, look for excuses and obligations to walk. If the event is within 5 km/3 miles from home, just walk there.
There are special lights that emit a small amount of UV. You expose yourself daily to 20-30 minutes in the morning. You can buy one for your home. It will make you feel better. Or...
Oh yes, I said it! A FAKE TAN! These thing are famous for being very bad for you, but it small doses, it can be helpful! The at home SAD lights are effective because they emit a small amount of UV light. Tanning lamps do the same.
You can go in weekly for 4 minutes or biweekly for 6 minutes. Our goal is not to get tan, that's where the damage starts. But we can use it to keep a bit of color and soak out a ton of UV that will last us several days.
Keep Blinds Open/Sunny
Don’t be the grump with the windows closed during the winter. I know it's depressing to look outside and see rain again, but even on cloudy days, there is still UV being emitted from the sun.
Do everything you can to let in natural light. Keep curtains open and trim branches back from windows. If you are on the ground floor and can’t get light, go outside or hang out on the roof for a bit.
Be Extra Weary of Unhealthy Habits
I know it is tempting to fall into the popular pattern of the winter body: one fattened by junk food, movies and cuddles. FIGHT IT OFF! For one thing, summer bodies are made in the winter. For another, that's just propaganda.
You can be vigilant about your own bad habits. While you don’t have st stay as strict as you were just a few lovely and beautiful months before, you must keep going. Find classes and community to workout with. Showing up is easier if your friends are there and you don't have to think too much about the exercise.
And unhealthy food, just say no. Indulge one and a while but know that jackets and sweatpants isn’t an excuse to give up all self control or self-respect
Bring Your Own Sunshine With You
Fundamentally it is a state of mind. Yes, limited sunshine has an effect on the mood and health, and it has been scientifically proven. No, this is not a diagnosis for depression or an excuse for you to stop taking care of yourself.
Depression is a vicious circle: you are depressed because you don’t take care of yourself and you don't take care of yourself because you are depressed. You have the power to step in and make things right on a daily basis. But you really have make a point to do the things nourish you.
Decide to bring your sunshine with you.