Canada's Condominium Magazine
A recent survey commissioned by The Weather Network showed that roughly 43 per cent of Canadians have experienced (or are currently experiencing) depression associated with winter months. A decrease in daylight hours, cold temperatures, and other factors contribute to the “winter blues.” Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or winter depression:
- Extreme fatigue that makes it difficult to complete daily tasks
- A significant change in appetite
- Weight gain
- Feelings of depression and hopelessness
- Lack of enjoyment from favourite activities
Some groups are more susceptible than others. Adults have a higher risk than children and teenagers, although there is a noticeable decrease in risk after age 50. Women are nine times more likely than men to experience seasonal depression. Additionally, people in northern countries and cities are also more likely to experience this than those who live closer to the equator. The following are some helpful tips for lifting your spirits and overcoming winter depression.
Get Your Heart Pumping with Physical Activity
Regular exercise increases energy in addition to improving overall well-being. It also relieves stress and anxiety. Many times, when it is cold out and the days begin to feel dark and dreary, we fall into a slump and become stagnant. Getting up and increasing activity is good for your mind and body. Physical activity does not have be outdoors either. Indoor aerobics and other activities are great for physical fitness during months when it is cold out. Workout videos help build your cardio in a fun way that will help to boost your mood.
Clear Your Mind and Rid Yourself of Your Worries
Take time out daily to clear your mind. Practice meditation, do some yoga or Pilates, and indulge in some peace and quiet so that you can relax. Sometimes, the depression is compounded by daily (or seasonal) stresses. Among these are financial concerns as the holidays come around and stress from a rough encounter with a relative or former friend. As much as we would love for the holidays to be packed to the brim with nothing but good spirits and glad tidings, that is not always the case. A falling out or other issue can result in increased stress levels, especially when thrust into a social situation with the person or thing that causes the stress.
If you find that social situations such as family reunions bring with them a tremendous amount of stress, forego them… or at least avoid anything or anyone who brings you misery. Purging toxic relationships from your life can be every bit as effective as removing unhealthy foods and vices. If that is not possible, then take a deep breath or two before encountering this person, meditate if needed, and make the conversation as brief as possible.
Change Your Diet (Even if Just Temporarily)
Change your diet and eat better. This will improve your mood significantly. Your physical well-being has a great deal to do with your mental and emotional well-being, and vice versa. Poor eating habits that negatively impact your overall health include skipping meals, over-indulging in sugary snacks or alcohol, and eating to fill a void (such as boredom). Foods that are best for improving overall health and mood including the following:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – These are essential fatty acids, meaning that the human body cannot synthesize them on its own, though they are crucial for healthy metabolic function. Moreover, they are excellent for reducing depression and its symptoms, according to Toronto-based holistic nutritionist Tara Miller. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include spinach and other leafy greens (with spinach being a prime source), fatty fish like wild salmon, and many nuts and seeds (including walnuts, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, and hemp seeds).
- Vitamin C – It is no secret that vitamin C possesses immunity-boosting abilities. It is also rich in antioxidants, which can increase energy levels and lower anxiety. Vitamin C is most often associated with citrus fruits, it is also abundant in leafy greens, parsley, broccoli, and cauliflower.
- Magnesium – This is plays an important part in reducing depression and stress, as well as bolstering immunity. The mineral is found in foods such as leafy greens, fish, and nuts.
Soak Up the Vitamin D in Other Ways
Vitamin D has been linked to increased immunity and reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Egg yolks and fatty fish are excellent sources of Vitamin D. People who are unable to consume these due to dietary restrictions can use supplements instead. According to Dr. Jane Goehner, a naturopathic doctor in Oakville, Ontario, sunshine is likely not enough to keep vitamin D levels up, and a vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of complications in bone health, autoimmunity, and the cardiovascular system.
“You actually need your full arms and legs to be exposed for thirty minutes a day, at least three times a week, between March and October to get adequate vitamin D levels from the sun,” said Goehner. Fatty fish, eggs, milk, and meat are excellent sources of vitamin D. Supplements can also be beneficial.
A lack of adequate sunlight can leave us feeling miserable, in terms of physical and mental health. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Seasonal Affective Disorder affects two to three per cent of Canadians at some point in their lifetime. Adults, especially women, are at higher risk of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
When sunlight is not readily available, it can pay to get creative. Use clever lighting techniques to improve sleep patterns and lift spirits. Light therapy has been proven to benefit people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, especially in the case of the winter blues. Immerse yourself in special lighting for half an hour a day.
“The intense artificial light causes a chemical change in the brain that improves mood and helps relieve SAD symptoms,” says the CMHA. Between 60 and 80 per cent of people experience substantial relief from light therapy. However, great care should be taken when doing so. “Light therapy should not be done without first consulting your doctor because there are side-effects to this treatment.”