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January 19, 2016

Beat the winter blues with these seven tips

Mental Health Winter

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Woman running along river banks ibx rej Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

When the clocks fall back and it gets colder outside, many people experience the wintertime blues. Most people crave more daylight when the days get shorter. For some, it’s just a vague sense of missing the sunlight. For others, it’s an identifiable medical syndrome – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD – that can actually significantly affect their mental well-being and can result in depression.

If you find yourself feeling sad during the dark winter months, these seven tips can help you beat the blues:

1. Let the light in

During the depths of winter, think of ways to make your environment brighter – whether it means raising normally closed blinds, trimming trees around the house to allow more of the sun’s rays to filter in or even sitting next to a full-spectrum light box.

2. Forget the cold – bundle up and get outside anyway!

Brisk, blood-stimulating exercise does wonders for the blues of any kind. Enjoy your outdoor exercise during the day when the sun is at its height. An energizing walk at lunchtime can stave off a slump when you get back to the office for an afternoon of work.

3. Don’t use all your vacation time in the summer

It’s astonishing how a week on a sunny tropical beach can work wonders in chasing away the winter blues. You don’t have to mortgage the house and sail off to Fiji – a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida, or to the warm and sunny Southwest, won’t cost a fortune.

4. Consider vitamins and supplements

Your body benefits from the Vitamin D produced by the sun, which, by definition, you’re getting less of in the winter. If you feel your Vitamin D level might have dropped, ask your doctor if as much as 2,000 IU (International Units) of a Vitamin D supplement might be in order.

Similarly, consider the hormone melatonin. It’s known to help regulate the human sleep cycle, which can be thrown off balance by the shorter days of midwinter.

5. Stay social

Winter snow and ice can be so confining that it causes some people to become hermits, losing the invaluable psychological benefits that socialization with others can bring. In spite of the weather, resist the temptation to hunker down in isolation until spring, and stay involved in social activities throughout the winter. Volunteer commitments in which you’re “giving to others” are particularly beneficial in overcoming the blues.

6. Learn about those dawn-simulating alarm clocks

Isn’t technology wonderful? There are now alarm clocks that mimic the breaking dawn in your bedroom by shedding first a bit of the dawn’s early light, then more, until after a half-hour a complete “sunrise” has happened on your bedroom. It’s not just a cool effect, it’s a powerful message to your brain to stop producing the sleep hormone and wake up.

7. Have a winter-long goal

Something that will give your winter season a focus and a trajectory. Maybe it’s repainting a room, finishing that 700-page novel, organizing the basement or cleaning out 20 years’ worth of junk in the attic – anything that will occupy your mind with purpose, progress and accomplishment.

You don’t have to take an emotional or psychological nosedive just because it’s winter. Consider these practical steps to keep your mind healthy throughout the season.

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