How to Beat the Winter Blues
By Elise R. Moore, MA LLP CAADC
Many of us are finding ourselves in a desperate countdown to spring vacation to a sunny destination, marking off the calendar days until the first day of spring arrives, and just feeling generally OVER what feels like a never ending winter season in Michigan. The excitement of the first snowflakes in late fall, busy and fun filled holiday season, and celebrating the fresh New Year gives way to the winter blahs. For many, this comes with a downward shift in mood. The good ole WINTER BLUES take hold. But why do we experience this shift and what can we do to beat the blues?
Winter in MIchigan means fewer hours of sunshine in a day's time and with the weather conditions, far less time spent outside in the elements for most of us. Exposure to sunlight is known to increase the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin in our brains; a hormone that is directly connected to improving mood and encouraging focus, as well as improves a sense of calm and well being. Vitamin D is also something sunlight offers; and low levels of vitamin D are often associated with depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and other mental health experiences. When sunlight is absorbed into the skin, Vitamin D triggers the production of dopamine, another neurotransmitter interactive in impacting mood and improving regulation of anxiety. A lack of serotonin, dopamine, and vitamin D is associated with the following symptoms:
- Poor sleep
- Depressed mood
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Increased behavioral issues in children
The good ole WINTER BLUES take hold. But why do we experience this shift and what can we do to beat the blues?
What can we do to beat the winter blues? Because we know exposure to sunlight can impact the production of these neurotransmitters and vitamin D, set a goal to get 10-30 minutes of sunlight several times a week. When the brutal conditions of Michigan make a brief walk outside too challenging, purchasing a light therapy box would be an alternative to consider. These boxes are inexpensive, compact, portable, and affordable options to deliver the exposure to sunlight we need in winter. In addition to the goal of increasing sunlight outside or by way of a light therapy box, the following are also recommended in effort to combat the winter blues:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Eating a health diet
- Socializing and connecting with family and friends
- Talking it out with talk therapy; consider speaking with your physician about symptoms experienced
- Trying something new: hobbies, activities, or exploring a new interest
- Committing to a sleep schedule
So go ahead and grab your puffy coat, cozy hat and mittens, and step into that clunky pair of boots and head outside for a little walk as we all continue the countdown to spring.
About the Author
Elise R. Moore, MA LLP CAADC
"I have been providing therapeutic support with a diverse population of clients including adults, children, and couples. My diversity in experience encompasses a variety of client concerns including: depression, anxiety, trauma (including combat PTSD), alcohol and substance abuse, parenting support, along with adjustment and life transition."