Darker days: Combating Seasonal Depression

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Albert Camus 


If you live in a climate with longer winters, you might be more prone to seasonal depression. I've lived in New England my whole life, and it was only in recent years that I realized this seasonal shift and darker days were the cause of much of the depression I'd experienced in my life. While some depression definitely requires professional help, whether that be a therapist or a visit to your doctor or naturopath, there are many things we can do at home to help feel better in these challenging times.

Here are some of the ways that you can fight the darkness:

Try to step outside everyday. If you can do it early on in the day, even better. A short walk in the morning or on a lunch break can shift the whole day. If you don't have time to walk, just stand outside for a minute or two and breathe gently. Don't let the weather stop you, unless it's severe. Just bundle up or a put on a rain coat if needed. You'll be surprised about how pleasant a solitary walk in the rain can be. If you only can squeeze in a short one, it's still worth it!

Winter sports like cross-country skiing or snow shoeing or just playing in the snow can help us to stay active outside. This time in the sunshine each day, even if it's not long, can really energize us and keep us moving towards the light.

Nature is healing. Take a walk in a park or forest or by running water whenever you can!

Take extra vitamin D if you need it. Consult with your doctor if you're unsure about how much you need. My midwife recommended this to me when I was  pregnant with my second daughter and constantly exhausted. I was surprised at the energy boost. Sometimes exhaustion can really cause a down shift in our mood that can spiral into depression.

Take up a hobby. Drawing, cooking, crafting, knitting or crochet, photography, woodwork, playing board games... whatever it is, sometimes doing is the best medicine. It doesn't have to be complicated. Write a short bit in a journal each day if you're at a loss for what to do. Staying active and interested in something you care about can keep our thoughts from despair.

Be mindful of content: If your reading lots of depressing news or watching or reading too many disturbing shows or books, take a break until you're feeling more balance again. These things can be hard to consume when we are in the depths of despair. Music can also bring us down. Sometimes we turn to these depressing things precisely because we are depressed, but try them again when they are not feeding your negative thoughts and feelings. Instead, look for content that inspires, motivates, or gives you perspective on your situation.

Think about your environment: Colors can have a positive effect on our mood. If we are surrounded by drab or boring colors, they can feed our dismal sense of the world. I try to choose warm colors in my home. If you can't choose the colors, try adding an item with an inspiring color. If artwork on the wall doesn't make you feel overwhelmed, pick out some special pieces that inspire you every time you see them.

If clutter is stressing you out, purge some belongings you no longer need. Sometimes space helps us to feel better. Start with one small area. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the task.

Scent can also help us heal. Choose scents that uplift you when you're feeling down.

House plants help connect us with nature when our outdoor time is limited. You can also plant micro-greens, sprouts, or cat grass. Bringing nature indoors can really change the feeling of a place.

Try movement medicine: Yoga, thai chi, stretching, hula dancing, wild crazy dancing to you're favorite music can all effect how we see the world if done regularly. I start everyday with a youtube yoga video, and it really helps me to get through the morning rush with kids. You can also play a game like basketball or go for a run. Exercise really does help improve how we feel. If you missed a day, don't despair, each day is a new chance to give it a whirl.

Reach out:
Talk to a friend that makes you laugh. Call a family member that always listen.  Go out for coffee with someone you care about. If you live alone or are having trouble connecting, this is a good time to volunteer. Pet shelters, homeless shelters, nursing homes, or helping out with an after school program could all be options. And as I said before, reach out for help if you need it. Friends, family, and professionals all want to be there for you, but they may not know what you're struggling with. If you're able, try to listen to other peoples problems. This helps us to not feel so alone, and also takes the focus off our own misery. You don't have to fix anything for them. Just listen and be there.

Stay away from toxic people:
Some of these people might be people you love, so you don't necessarily have to stay away from them forever, but just avoid them when you're struggling. If you know they might bring you down, try to minimize your contact or have someone to vent to about these people when they leave.

Bring light into your life:
Candles at dinnertime are necessary in our house during the winter months. If you are lucky enough to have a stove or fireplace, sit by it when you can and take in the warm beams of light. Stare out the window when the sun is shining. Get a sun lamp if it will help you bring more sunlight into your life.

Drink tea everyday:
Warm tea always helps me slow down and take it easy. Ginger and Peppermint are uplifting. Chamomile is calming. Chai can bring some spice in your life. Experiment with different blends.

Think about your Whole Body: When we feel depressed we tend to concentrate on our mind and our problems. But our whole body contributes to how we feel overall. Eat more vegetables. Enjoy nourishing herbs. Give up something in your diet that you know is hurting you. Take care of the physical problems as best you can that might be causing stress in your life. I have nerve damage in one of my feet. When I remember to soak my foot each night and massage it, it takes off a lot of the tension it causes me. Physical problems can cause stress and tension and we can't always fix them, but we can tend these chronic problems with love and gentleness.

Make Plans for Warmer Days:
The winter is a great time to plan your garden, plan Spring projects and day dream about flowers and sunshine. Don't let it get you down, but use it as a reminder that the seasons change, and you'll change too. 



I am not a doctor or healer, but I decided to write this because I know from experience how hard the winters can be when we're depressed. I hope these things help others to make it through the darker days. Love and light to all!


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