Fall Has Arrived, Folks!
The extreme heat of the summer sun has shifted to a gentle warmth with cooler temperatures. The change in weather is enjoyable for many, but for some, the gradual decrease in exposure to sunlight as the seasons’ change allows for sadness to slowly creep in.
Do you experience a depressed mood and/or loss of interests or pleasure in activities that you normally enjoy during the fall/winter months? If this sadness seems to appear every year around a particular time of year, you may struggle with a seasonal pattern of Major Depressive Disorder (previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Consider the following 3 tips to help you fight off the winter blues!
1. Get Outside
With cold weather, it’s easy to want to snuggle up with a blanket and stay inside, yet this behavior may increase your feelings of sadness. Specifically, exposure to sunlight also helps produce feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin.
Additionally, sunlight exposure influences our circadian rhythm by preventing the daytime release of melatonin, a hormone released at night that helps make us tired. Subsequently, try to get as much sunlight as possible to keep your energy and mood up.
An alternative option to consider if you feel like you struggle to get exposure to sunlight in the winter is a light therapy box, which mimics natural sunlight.
Use your lower mood in the fall/winter months as a signal to practice and monitor your current-level of self-care.
Make sure you exercise (preferably outside to allow for more exposure to sunlight)! Exercise impacts the production of neurotransmitters in your brain that influence mood.
Serotonin levels are typically lower in individuals with depression, and exercise increase production of serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is associated with the pleasure and reward centers of our brain, helping to make us feel good.
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.
3. Challenge Negative Thinking
When dealing with depression, your thoughts tend to come across as more negative than positive. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your evidence for the negative thought?
- What evidence goes against that thought?
- Are you oversimplifying a situation?
- Are you making assumptions or misinterpreting information?
- What are some other ways to read the situation or circumstance?
Beating the Winter Blues
Just remember, if you experience the winter blues, you’re not alone. Try these three tips, but know that long-lasting sadness should not be ignored. If you are experiencing significant sadness that has occurred for more than two weeks, reach out to your current health care provider to discuss your symptoms.
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.