7 Ways To Manage SAD
It’s time to turn ‘sad’ into ‘happy’…
Growing up, I lived in a climate that fully embodies all four seasons, and once mid-autumn made its grand appearance, I felt my entire being start to contract. Turning the clocks back not only made the days seem shorter but made my life seem less bright and sunny. My energy was low, I felt more irritable, had odd food cravings, to name a few of my experiences during the seasonal shift.
Little did I know, my impending anxiety associated with the change of seasons actually has a name. Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD) is a term reflecting a type of depression that sets in for many during the change of seasons. It generally occurs when the weather becomes colder and the days shorter. Some people call it the ‘winter blues’ and endure the negative emotional impact while impatiently awaiting warmer months. According to Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD ‘The incidence of seasonal affective disorder increases in people who are living farther away from the equator. Statistics on seasonal affective disorder in the United States include that this disorder occurs in 1% to 10% of adults, and its prevalance is dependent on geographical location. This need not be the case.
Learn how to transform SAD into HAPPY with these seven simple techniques:
- Book a trip somewhere warm during the colder months.
If you know you tend to dread the colder months, prioritize your health my organizing a getaway, whether it be for a weekend or longer to a destination that is warm. I used to plan weekend trips to Southern Florida when I was in college. Surprisingly, the fare was much less expensive than I would have imagined. Regardless, I viewed it as a necessary investment in my health. Even just one weekend of tropical weather during the winter lifted my spirits long after I returned to the cold temperatures. This would be an investment in your health. That’s how I look at it!
- Invest in a warm winter coat.
This may seem obvious, but it happened to make a huge difference for me in terms of how I related to cold weather. For years I resisted winter gear; probably because I didn’t want to associate myself with anything ‘chill’. Silly, I know. While living in New York City a few years ago, I borrowed my roommate’s heavy winter coat to go out and was astonished by how warm it made me feel. Please note that these types of garments are usually not cheap, however they are a wise investment if you want to feel happy instead of sad.
- Eat warming foods.
I used to live in Costa Rica where it is hot all year round. Some would say that is amazing, and yes it definitely had its perks, especially for a former SAD victim. However, I will admit that there were numerous times I was craving sweet potatoes and hot soup and curry and stews. Eating squash in the jungle just doesn’t make sense. During the colder months, take advantage of all the grounding and warming foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, parsnips, turmeric, cayenne, curry, and more. Use oils such as coconut oil to cook with and keep your system lubricated. Prepare soups and stews. They will warm your body and your mind. It’s okay to eat heavier in the winter while staying active. It’s very natural, and actually very healthy to eat what the season provides.
- Pay attention to cravings.
Make sure you are drinking enough water. Often, dehydration manifests as food cravings. In the cooler months we may not necessarily reach for water all the time, so make it a priority to stay hydrated. If you are experiencing food cravings, take some time to inquire within. Your body will inevitably crave different foods in the winter than it craves in the summer. Pay close attention and do your best to keep your food whole, nutritious, and simple. People tend to crave ‘holiday’ foods or certain comfort foods they used to enjoy when they were a child, etc. I encourage you to explore other ways to receive comfort. As we learn more about nutrition, it is our responsibility to choose how to nourish yourself. For me, I like to work out when I am experiencing an odd food craving. Sweating and moving my body usually dissipates cravings or transforms them into something healthy. Going for walks outdoors can also relieve cravings.
I mean it. Right now, I live in LA. It’s 75 and sunny every day. It’s great, but it also leaves little time to slow down and stay inside. Of course, I can stay inside if I wish, but the energy of the sun makes it less inviting. During the colder months, stay inside, blast the heat, and focus on creativity. Write, paint, snuggle with your lover, meditate, etc. Be like the bears! You don’t always need to be ‘on the go’. Allow yourself to flow naturally with the seasons instead of resisting them. You deserve to slow down.
- Stay active.
This is the most common pitfall I see in SAD patients. It’s easy to not feel motivated to exercise during the colder months, but skipping this activity will inevitably turn SAD into SADDER. Move your body. Exercising releases endorphins, raises serotonin (feel good chemical) and can lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Make sure you sweat. If you belong to a gym or are considering a membership, I recommend a gym that has either a sauna or steam room. Take hot showers and baths daily.
- Be grateful.
Gratitide is the ultimate healing medicine. Instead of complaining and resisting what is, learn to be grateful for the seasonal shift. Every response is a choice. I don’t suggest you manufacture gratitude. Instead, make it authentic. Notice the beauty surrounding you, whether it be the leaves changing colors, the nostalgic smell in the air, the first snowfall of the season, or the familiar scent of a wood burning fireplace. When we shift from resistance to gratitude, magic happens and our health skyrockets. There is always something to be grateful for.