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Tips & Life Hacks
November 18, 2019
How To Cope With The Winter Blues

Dorian Schwartz

A woman with her arms slightly stretched out walking down the middle of a reseditial street during a snowfall.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It is not uncommon to experience a dip in our mood during the winter months.

Due to the shorter days, we are being exposed to a lot less natural sunlight than we are used to during the summer months.          

Depending on our lifestyles, we’re also far less likely to be spending time outside when it’s cold, making it even harder to expose ourselves to natural light.

Why does this make a difference in our mood? When we spend less time in natural sunlight, we are likely to experience a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in our brains that helps regulate mood, social behaviour, sleep, and appetite. A decrease in serotonin during the fall and winter may trigger symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known by the apt acronym, SAD.

It’s important to be mindful of how the weather affects mood and to understand that experiencing depressive symptoms during the winter months is very common. In knowing this about ourselves and our bodies, we are better able to prepare for the emotional challenges that may arise as a result of SAD.

The good news? There are many strategies that can be used during the winter to combat these symptoms!

1. Light Therapy                   

Ever heard of light therapy? Using a light therapy box, commonly known as a “SAD lamp,” can help combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder. A light therapy box mimics outdoor light, and sitting in front of one for a set amount of time each day can help expose us to the light we are missing during the winter. Here you can find my favourite light. As always, it is important to discuss this treatment with your doctor or mental health practitioner to identify if it’s the right choice for you.

2. Schedule Regular Therapy

Your therapist can work with you to develop helpful coping strategies for the depressive symptoms associated with SAD and the colder weather. Regular therapy is an important practice for self-care, but it can become harder to maintain during the winter months. At Shift, we offer video or phone therapy, making maintaining your mental health and therapy practice even more accessible throughout the colder days :)

3. Get Moving                

Seasonal affective disorder can make exercising difficult, but regular physical activity helps to boost serotonin production in the brain. Even a brief 20-30 minute daily walk can help promote a sense of wakefulness and boost in mood. Although it may be a challenge, attempting to reach out to others to participate in winter festivities together can also be helpful motivation to get moving this winter!

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