With the change of seasons, usually from fall to winter, many individuals struggle with a depressed mood, formally called seasonal depressive disorder, and informally referred to as a seasonal depression. This can occur due to less sunshine, more time spent inside and even a lack of newness.
Routines are great for creating order and consistency in our lives. Overall, people respond well to maintaining a set schedule. However, routines can become mundane and a routine without any excitement can lead to feelings of depression. One way to help deal with winter depression is by freshening up your routine to breathe life into your day-to-day.
How to beat winter depression
There are countless things to do in the fall and winter, both indoors and outdoors. So long as you are willing to take the time to switch things up and seek out adventure, you can begin fighting seasonal depression on your own.
Schedule things to look forward to
Every week or so you should try and incorporate something fun and enjoyable (and different!) into your schedule. It doesn’t have to take up a ton of time or cost a lot of money — it could be as simple as exploring a new city park, trying out a new restaurant for Sunday brunch or making a new soup and having friends over to share.
Having something to look forward to gives a sense of positivity and may help keep you from dwelling on potential negatives that occur in your day.
Try something new
Novelty releases dopamine, one of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Trying new things also has the benefit of decreasing boredom and presenting a challenge, both things we need to continue to feel fulfilled. You might pick up a new hobby like cooking, crocheting or drawing. You could finally start that home improvement project you’ve been thinking about. Or you could enroll in a local club or class to learn or improve on a skill.
Set short-term goals
Long-term goals are great, but focusing on more immediate goals can be more helpful in ensuring you follow through — plus, these short-term goals can all be focused on working towards the long-term goal, thereby boosting motivation as you successfully work through each step.
Short-term goals provide short-term motivation — something that is often lost when feeling depressed. Working towards and reaching goals provides a sense of purpose and achievement in our lives. Keep them attainable, time-sensitive and enjoyable, and you’ll feel winter depression decrease and overall positivity increase.
Unless you engage in a winter sport such as skiing, chances are, you’re less active during this time of the year. Finding a new winter exercise routine has many benefits as exercise promotes a positive mood, releases various neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and energized and reduces stress.
Additionally, with less sunshine, our internal clocks can undergo a change, leading to alterations in our sleep patterns. A healthy exercise routine promotes a regular sleep/wake cycle and can help get us out of the house when we’ve been cooped up for long hours.
Make wintery foods
The winter months provide a great opportunity to tap into your cooking skills and try out different recipes and flavors. Maybe you’re craving some homemade chili and cornbread? Perhaps roasted vegetables and cooked chicken sounds better. Or a rich pasta dish with a side of garlic bread?
Listen to your body during this time, and allow it to tell you what it needs to stay nourished and well during the winter months.
Tap into the people around you
While staying curled up in your home safe from the cold temperatures is definitely appropriate at times, remember it’s not appropriate at all times. Prolonged habits of isolation can lead to boredom which can result in intrusive thoughts, anxiety and depression.
To prevent this from happening, balance out the time you spend alone with time spent in the company of other people. Have a friend over for dinner, meet someone for a walk through the local downtown or park or make plans to have dinner with your family each weekend. You’re likely to notice the positive impact that being around people you care about has on your life and your mental health.
Need more mental health support during the winter?
Whether you experience a change in mood in the winter months or throughout the entire year, working with a therapist can help you evaluate what may be the cause and how to manage it. To get in touch with someone today, consider contacting the specialists at The Light Program by calling 610-644-6464.