Winter is just beginning, and with it comes the winter blues, or worse, Seasonal Affective Disorder. The time to start prepping for those dark and gloomy cold-weather days is now.
For most of us, the fall and winter months may mean a little gloominess and a cold-weather funk that we’ll just have to work a little harder to shake. For others though, that funk can balloon into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is much more serious. Regardless of how you experience the cold weather months, here are a few tips to help you stay energized and in good spirits.
Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, with Winter starting to kick into high gear, we’re preparing ourselves—not just for the cold, but for the gloom.
Brighten Up Your Home or Office
One of the first things anyone suffering from SAD should do is try to get more natural light. In some places that’s not possible, especially when the long nights and short days of the deep winter months set in. In that case, consider switching some of the lights in your home or office with bulbs that simulate natural light. Depending on how severe your condition is, you may want to look into light therapy or phototherapy, where individuals sit in front of a lightbox on a daily basis to essentially immerse themselves in simulated sunlight.
The Cleveland Clinic has a great description of how phototherapy works, and while a full-on lightbox may be too much for some people, it’s barely enough for others. If you don’t think replacing your light bulbs is required, try throwing open your windows during the day to let as much light in your home or office as possible, and keeping some of your lights on a little longer to keep your environment brighter, even if those bulbs don’t simulate natural light. Sometimes a little goes a long way.
Getting your tasks and projects in order and making an effort to stay organized can actually help relieve some of the “down in the dumps” hopelessness that comes from not only being depressed, but being depressed and staring at a mountain of work to do. By arranging your to-do list into something that’s actually actionable, and by building your own productivity style that works for you, you remove can help relieve some of the crushing weight that a massive, unorganized to-do list can have.
Admittedly, while getting organized doesn’t actually relieve any of the symptoms of SAD, it can help you be more productive, have clear goals and tasks that you can tackle, and gives you a seamless way to make good use of your time without having to build up the energy to start a new task or project. If you can just slide from task to task, you’re less likely to throw up your hands in despair and just curl up in bed until the spring thaw.
Stay Active and Exercise
Don’t underestimate the benefits of exercise to help improve your mood and overall well being. Whether the winter months just make you feel a little down in the dumps or you find that the deeper into the winter it gets the less you want to move from the couch at all, getting physical and starting a workout regimen can go a long way towards making you feel better about yourself, your lifestyle, and the time of year. Even getting up and getting outside for a quick walk in the daylight can make a huge difference.
According to WiseGeek, staying active and getting exercise releases dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters that regulates mood, and whether it’s the winter blues that have you down or you’re just suffering from general malaise, it can be a big help.
Get out of the house. When we asked you a long time ago how you beat the winter blues, many of you pointed out that the secret-aside from being as active as possible and getting as much daylight as possible-is to surround yourself with friends and loved ones who won’t let you shut yourself in the house all winter long.
Find some friends that will get out in the daylight with you, work out with you, drag you out of the house for a while, or who’ll come over and keep you company. Keeping your friendships and social relationships strong will also help a lot, and keep you from wasting the winter away alone at home.
Get Professional Help If It Gets Out of Control
While many of these tips are great for the type of person who suffers from the winter blues, knows it, and can take action now to get themselves prepared for it, if you’re the type who sinks into a more serious seasonal depression, it’s time to talk to a professional, now, before the winter sets in. Replacing all of the light bulbs in your home, getting a huge lightbox, and trying to work out on a regular basis may all not be enough to whisk away the winter blues. In these cases, it’s best to get professional help.