Seasonal depression is more likely to strike if you live in a Northwestern city like Seattle or Portland. That part of the country has incredibly early winter sunsets combined with a noticeable lack of sun from October to April. It can also hit residents of Northeastern cities like Buffalo or Syracuse.
When you live in a northern climate, you have to fight harder against Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. But when you’re depressed, you don’t feel like fighting. You have to talk yourself into doing simple things like getting up in the morning and getting dressed. You need a strategy to fight SAD that doesn’t leave you feeling emotionally spent. Here are three relatively simple things you can do to help yourself feel better when winter is at its worst.
Decorate your home
Take a look around your house. If the walls are mostly bare, then you should change that. Winter feels enough like a prison, and it doesn’t help if you’re stranded in a room with the aesthetic appeal of a cell. One thing you can do is get outside and look at local art galleries. If you don’t know of any art galleries, then look for artwork on display at restaurants and coffee houses. In many cases, that painting or photograph on the wall is for sale. When you buy it, you’re contributing to the local economy.
Don’t stop there, either. You need to look at the photos on your phone and get a little silly with them. Silliness is one of the most surefire ways to cheer yourself up. If you find a photo you like, don’t just order a normal, boring print of it online. Turn it into a cartoon canvas instead. You don’t have to wear a cape and tights to look like you just sprang from the pages of a comic book. Something like that will put a little spring in your step on even the bleakest January day.
Leave the house and exercise
Keeping up with an exercise routine is tough but doable in the warmer months, but in winter, it can feel like an enormous burden. In winter, we want to hibernate. That means staying on the couch and drinking hot cocoa while watching ice hockey, not going outside and running when it’s 10 degrees outside. If you want to keep up an outdoor fitness routine in winter, there are ways to try and acclimate yourself to the cold. But it might be better to get in the car and go somewhere else entirely.
A big part of curing seasonal depression is about challenging that feeling that you’re trapped inside and everything is helpless. The longer you stay in that frame of mind, the easier it is to spiral further down into the depths of depression. Getting in the car and driving somewhere is a way to disrupt that train of thought. If you’re feeling poor, you can drive to the mall and power walk. But if you have a little cash to spend, it’s worth heading to a dance center and signing up for a few weeks of dance classes. The more you move, the better you’re going to feel about yourself.
See a medical professional
Seasonal depression isn’t something you should have to just tough out. It’s a very real condition that may require medical intervention. There’s no shame in seeking out a qualified medical professional who can help ensure that SAD makes you less, well, sad. Experiment with exercise and home decor and whatever else seems reasonable, but don’t feel like you have to keep suffering if none of those things are working as well as you hoped.
Regular depression can run in families, and so can the seasonal kind. In fact, it’s more likely to strike women in their childbearing years. It messes with your levels of serotonin and dopamine, among other things. If you need extra help, call a doctor. Chances are, you won’t be the only one in the waiting room dealing with a bad bout of seasonal depression.