Staying Cheery in the Cold: SAD

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We’re currently looking for your submissions for January’s Healthy Living Tuesdays series, focused on how you keep your spirits up during the cold winter months. Email your post or link to!

This post comes from Joanna 0f Things After Rings!

Making (and Keeping) Spirits Bright

I’m so happy to be writing for you all, and especially on this topic because it is one that is very close to my heart.

In February of last year, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. This fall I noticed that my symptoms actually start mid-October in the weeks leading up to daylight savings. My symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, anxious, extremely tired, trouble focusing (on work and play), and feeling very hopeless. One morning I texted my mom “I just read for my entire [10-minute] bus ride!” as if I got a perfect score on the SATs because for weeks I couldn’t concentrate for more than a paragraph. I started to feel like my daily goal was just to get through the day so I could get back in bed.

So believe me, I understand the “winter blues.”  But with just a bit of effort and focus you can keep them at bay and make the winter months as cheery as the spring and summer ones.

Here’s some tips keep your spirits bright during the cold, dark, winter months:

  • Exercise regularly—This is a big one for me year-round as I find that my moods are much more regular when I’m in the gym multiple times a week. I workout in the morning and in the spring/summer (i.e. lighter months) I’m up and at ‘em but it’s more challenging to get out of bed when it’s dark until 7am and cold outside.  It was 5:42 am and 17 degrees outside when I got to the gym one morning last week.  It was killer walking to the car but the satisfaction I got knowing that I made it to the gym when it would’ve been easier to get back in bed (my husband offered that option) made the workout feel that much better. Start small: Try to get two brief walks into each day to get a break from your desk and get some sunlight and fresh air.
  • Connect with friends—While we may want to hibernate in the winter months, there’s a lot of warmth to be had from connecting with a friend.  I get so much energy from seeing a good friend that I usually leave lunch or happy hour with quite a bit of pep in my step.  So make plans to grab lunch, go shopping to spend your Christmas money, or grab a drink (a glass of wine always gets my cheeks rosy) to get in some quality time with a friend AND lift your spirits.  Win-win! Start small: If you really want to hibernate, make an effort to call or email a friend to catch up.
  • Eat right—When I feed my body right, I feel a lot better mentally. My goal for the past couple months has been to eat one fruit and one vegetable per day.  I know, I know, this seems super low as the ideal is a bunch of servings of each per day but, you know, baby steps. Start small: If you don’t want to commit to a full blown diet, just try to practice moderation: pass on holiday treats that are lurking in the office, try for smaller portions and/or don’t go for seconds, and/or just be picky about what you will or will not put in your mouth.
  • Plan ahead—Having something to look forward to is a great way to keep your spirits up this time of year.  Plan a weekend getaway trip in the next few months, or start researching/planning for your summer vacation.  Start small: Make reservations at a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try or buy tickets in advance to a movie you’d like you see.

These are my strategies to keep myself feeling cheerful, motivated, and energized when it’s cold and dark during the winter.

I’d love to know: how do you stay cheery this time of year?

Thanks, Joanna!

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