Fighting Winter Depression

Dec 26, 2017
Senior woman in front of a Christmas tree

Amount 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder – a sadness and depression that sets in around wintertime.

It’s no surprise it’s so prevalent, either. As the weather turns cold, sunshine is harder to come by. You spend less time outdoors, and more and more hours holed away in dimly lit rooms, bundled up and away from all that happiness-inducing Vitamin D.

And sadly, the winter depression doesn’t just cause sadness. It can also zap your energy levels, cause moodiness, impact your weight, hurt your ability to sleep and have many other unwanted effects – particularly on aging adults.

Want to make sure you fight these seasonal blues? Here’s how to do it.

Through Food

Eating the right types of foods can have a huge impact on how your body and mind cope with the winter months. Proteins are key, as they fight the energy-zapping symptoms that come with seasonal depression. Just make sure you choose lean proteins that are high in Omega-3s – things like salmon, tuna, chicken or turkey. Stay away from red meats and proteins with a high saturated fat content (like steak, for example.)

Get good fats through nuts, seeds and avocados to keep your body alert and boost your mood, and eat lots of berries to lower stress levels. Blueberries and raspberries are particularly good for this, as they can prevent the release of cortisol – which increases stress and causes moodiness.

Steer clear of extra sugar. Natural sugars from fruit are one thing, but added sugars in snack foods and pre-made items are a big danger in the winter. Though they may give you an energy boost at the time of consumption, once your body has processed them, they cause a crash – and they may leave you feeling worse than you did before.

Make sure to get plenty of Vitamin D too, as this is what your body misses when sun exposure is low. You can get this through a Vitamin D supplement (which you should clear with your doctor before taking) or you can get it by eating more eggs, fish, shrimp and mushrooms.

Through Physical Activity

Physical activity has long been known as a mood booster – and in the winter months, it’s even more so. Take time each day to go on a walk, ride your bike or just stroll around your local mall for a few minutes. If you can get outside for your activity – especially during the daytime when the sun is out (even if it’s blocked by clouds!) – that’s even better. Fresh air and mild sun exposure can provide just the energy boost your body needs when winter depression is setting in.

Yoga is particularly good for fighting depression, as it requires both physical and mental exercise. See if a senior center or community center in your area offers classes, or talk to a friend about joining a studio for a once-a-week session as winter sets in. Even if you have limited flexibility, yoga can be a great way to calm nerves and keep your mood up as the weather turns cold.

Other Tips for Fighting Winter Depression

Since sunlight is often scarce in the winter months, try bringing the light into your home instead. Light therapy boxes can mimic the sun’s rays and give your mood a boost right from the comfort of your own room. All it takes is about 30 minutes of exposure a day, and it can regulate your body’s melatonin production and improve sleep, mood and stress levels.

Aromatherapy has also been proven to help with the winter blues. Try adding essential oils like poplar, lavender, rosemary or lemon to your bath, or light scented candles to relax after a long day.

If you can swing it, consider taking a vacation for a bit this winter. Escape to a warmer climate for a few days or weeks, and soak in the rays while you can. Try to include visits with friends or loved ones during the trip, as socializing can also help improve mood and fight off depressive thoughts.

A few other tips that can help:

  • Dress happy. Who said winter requires boring cable knit sweaters and plain black leggings? Dress in bright colors, and keep your wardrobe happy and light. Sometimes, that old “fake it until you make it” adage can really
  • Embrace the season. If you can’t beat them, join them, right? Take this to heart, and instead of longing for summer, embrace the winter. Talk a walk in the snow with your pup, bring the grandkids out for a little sledding adventure or watch the snow fall from your balcony.
  • Make a book list – and conquer it. Write down all those books you’ve been meaning to read all year and devote your winter to conquering that list. If you’re not much of a reader, try doing the same with TV shows or movies.
  • Try a new hobby – Now’s the perfect time to try out a new hobby. Take up knitting, try your hand at baking a soufflé, or sit down and master that New York Times Sunday crossword. Use the colder months to learn new things and claim some accomplishments.

You should also speak to your doctor if depressive thoughts continue season after season. Though some winter blues are normal, recurring depression may need treatment with medication or therapy. Be sure to talk to a medical professional today if you worry your condition may be long term.

Let Ganton’s Help

We know winter depression is common among aging adults, and at Gantons, we make every effort to help our patients through it. With the right surroundings, a varied calendar of social activities and a staff of helpful, knowledgeable caretakers, we can help you or your loved one get through the colder months. Contact us today to see our facility for yourself.

For information about Countryside, call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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