Seasonal depression is easy to fall into, especially in Minnesota. With all the great qualities that this state has to offer, it also comes with a long, cold winter. This weather typically forces us to be inside more often. The lack of sunlight makes the brain overwork to produce the hormone melatonin, which regulates our sleep patterns and body clock.1 When this regulation is disrupted, it can cause depression, leading to seasonal affective disorder. Dangerously, about half a million Americans get seasonal affective disorder every year.2 Instead of leaving the state, complaining, or hoping winter will never happen again, make the best of the winters, and combat the stress and anxiety that comes with being cooped up inside.
This time of year, because of the combination of a cold weather and New Year’s resolutions, the gyms are typically packed. Getting a workout in is important but including an outdoor activity has more of an advantage than just helping you lose weight! Try a couple of these ideas to add sunlight into your routine:
- Get out the equipment or go to a place you can rent it to sled, cross-country ski, snowshoe, or ice skate. Make it a goal this year to do one of these activities by finding a local instructor to give you a lesson to prevent an injury. Adding these into your exercise routine will bring the benefit of exercise and sunshine for years to come.
- Take some time to just step outside and smell the fresh air. Research has found that being outside for as little as five minutes can improve your mood, motivation, and self-esteem.2 Whether it is walking the dog, going to get the mail, or walking to your car from the grocery store, take a little time to soak in the sun.
Even though the seasonal affective disorder is common, it does not need to be the norm. Dealing with this depression can often be combated by managing stress. Here are a couple of easy stress relieving tactics to put into habit when being outside is not an option because of time or extreme temperatures:
- Meditate in the car. Take slow deep breaths and be aware of your body. Try thinking of a word that relaxes you, such as “love” or “peace.”4
- Listen to calming music. Find music that includes waves crashing, birds chirping or wind in the trees. These sounds have been shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate.5
- Recognize what you are grateful for. Spend a little time in the morning or when you are overwhelmed to write down a few things that you are grateful for to cancel out the anxiety. It is also uplifting to look back at your past notes to remember what is important to you.5
However busy life may get or as many excuses that you may come up with, these are easy ways to keep your mental and physical health in check. Our long and cold winters are not going away anytime soon, so it is crucial that we find a way to mange it. Making a goal this year to add one of these into your daily routine can help boost your mood, give you more energy and ultimately lead you to a happy and healthier life!
Starting from when she was a little girl, Hillary’s passion has always been in living a healthy way of life through movement and eating right. She played many sports when growing up but ended up sticking with volleyball and softball through college at Concordia College in Moorhead. While at Concordia, she earned a double major in exercise science and nutrition, graduating in 2015. After moving to the cities from my long-time home of the Fargo area, she was not quite sure what her passion was until she started working as a personal trainer. She learned from brilliant personal trainers and physical therapists, which led to her discovery of corrective exercise being her passion. She has decided to finish up the classes needed to apply for physical therapy school, which she plans on doing soon! She is excited to be at Live Your Life Physical Therapy to learn as much as she can from Dr. Norman and all the physical therapist on staff!
1Kirchheimer, Sid. “Seasonal Depression: Beating Winter Sadness and Moodiness.” WebMD, WebMD, 2004, www.webmd.com/depression/features/beating-winters-woes.
2 MacDonald, Ann. “Feeling S.A.D.? Lighten up If It’s Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Harvard Health Blog, 20 June 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/feeling-sad-it-might-be-seasonal-affective-disorder-s-a-d-201101261250.
3 Sorgen, Carol. “Nature Therapy (Ecotherapy) Medical Benefits.” WebMD, WebMD, 19 June 2013, www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy#1.
4DiLonardo, Mary Jo. “Meditation: Step-by-Step Stress Relief.” WebMD, WebMD, 13 Aug. 2013, www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/recharge/features/meditation#2.
5 Moninger, Jeannette. “How to Reduce Stress: 10 Relaxation Techniques To Reduce Stress on the Spot.” WebMD, WebMD, 10 Dec. 2017, www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#2.