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By Jessica Figures

Five ways to overcome the winter blues

With the winter season and overcast skies steadily approaching, it is easy to find yourself dealing with a bad case of winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, affects thousands of people every year.

The change in seasons from bright and sunny weather to cold and gloomy skies can initiate a sudden drop in serotonin levels and disrupt the circadian rhythm. Combined, these factors can lead to a depressed mood. Symptoms of SAD include depression, irritability, lethargy, cravings, and weight gain. Though the change in seasons affects the body in ways that we cannot necessarily control, there are methods to mitigate the impacts as we adjust to wintery weather.

Spend time outside
Even on a cloudy day, fresh air plays a major role in your body's ability to overcome the winter blues. If the weather permits, go for a walk outside or ride your bike at a local park. Direct sunlight, no matter how diminished, will do wonders for your body and mental well-being. If you are unable to go outdoors, opening your blinds or positioning yourself next to an open window for several minutes throughout the day will provide you with some of the sunlight your body needs.

Exercise and meditation
Set aside a block of time each day in which you will cater to your health. If you are unable to go for an outdoor jog, try using an exercise video to get a 15- to 30-minute workout. Meditation is also a great tool for combating all negative emotions, along with those associated with SAD. There are many different forms of meditation to choose from for independent practice. However, if you feel that you may need some help, find a local meditation center for a guided session.

Surround yourself with color
It is tempting to allow the change in season to affect your surroundings. As the leaves on the trees turn brown, many people trade in the bright colors of the summer for the darker shades of fall and winter. Make a decision to do the opposite! Wear bright colors and surround yourself with beautiful things such as flowers and artwork. Cheerful surroundings will help you become unaffected by the dark weather looming outside.

Engage in new fun activities
A gloomy sky doesn't mean that you can't find new enjoyable activities to try! With rainy weather limiting the amount of time that can be spent outdoors, this is a perfect time to find a new hobby. Think about your interests. Is there an idea that you have been wanting to try but just couldn't find the time? Let your creative juices flow!

Mix with others
Healthy social interaction is a great tool for combating SAD, especially during the winter season when it is very easy to curl up into a metaphorical cocoon and hide from the world. From taking a class, joining a club, or volunteering at a local shelter, there are many ways to meet new people and bring about those feelings of excitement and meaningfulness that will prevent you from being overcome by feelings of depression.

A final thought
If you are in need of a more intensive treatment, contact your physician to discuss possible medicinal or herbal remedies that may be effective in helping you overcome SAD.

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