When not writing or working as a social media specialist, you can find Debra walking and dreaming at the beach or sweating it out at her neighborhood Bikram Yoga studio. Debra lives in sunny Atlantic Beach, Florida with husband John, daughter Aimee, and cats Patches and Mew.
Now that we have set the clocks back an hour, it can feel like we are immersed in darkness. This is the time of year when many people are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and may exhibit signs of depression. If you are feeling less energetic, more irritable, are craving carbohydrates, sleeping more, and have less interest in your usual activities, you are not alone. Approximately 3% of our population is affected by this disorder.
The lack of daylight causes mild changes in our brain chemistry and hormones which affect our circadian rhythm or internal body clocks. This can affect your mood and quality of sleep. What is the difference between the “winter blues” and SAD? According to the National Institutes of Health of Health, it is a matter of degree. Winter blues are mild to moderate and are shorter lasting than SAD. If you are having a difficult time getting through your day for several days in a row, then you should go see your doctor, advises the Mayo Clinic.
Here are five lifestyle habits to help make life easier during this time of year.
1. Exercise regularly. It is particularly beneficial to exercise outdoors (yes, even when it’s cold; just bundle up properly) and in the morning so that your body can get exposed to the morning light. Exercise releases those feel-good hormones (endorphins) and will help you feel better.
2. Eat a “clean” diet. Limit simple carbohydrates and sugary drinks. Eat wholesome food and drink plenty of water during the day.
3. Connect with others. Have lunch with a friend, join a book club, or volunteer in your community. According to the Mayo Clinic, social connections relieve stress, provide support, and build resilience.
4. Try new things. Start a new hobby, add a different exercise to your workout routine, or travel to a place you have never visited before.
5. Take breaks. Give yourself permission to take a break from work, your electronic devices, and other responsibilities. Even small things like taking a stroll after dinner or relaxing in your spa at the start or end of your day can make a big difference.
Here’s an example of what might an ideal winter day look like, one that can beat off the winter blues or SAD:
Wake up from a good night sleep, have a healthy breakfast, and then go out for a morning walk outside. Enjoy your spa before getting your work day started. Try a new route to work and then invite a colleague whom you have not had a chance to get to know very well out to lunch. On the way home from work, stop off at the gym or try a new yoga class. Then have a glass of wine with your partner while dinner is cooking and brainstorm what trips you would like to take in the near future. Armchair traveling is so much fun! After a nutritious dinner, enjoy the relaxing benefits of your hot tub. Then read or watch a movie and as you prepare for sleep think of the wonderful day that you had. Tomorrow will be even better! Sweet dreams.