5 Ways You Can Care for Your Mental Health This Winter

Your worsening mood in the winter may not be just your imagination — about 20 percent of Americans are affected by some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder, abbreviated appropriately as S.A.D. Linked to the lack of light that accompanies the shortening days, S.A.D. symptoms include loss of energy, sleeping excessively, eating more and gaining weight, and decreasing concentration. Similarly to other forms of depression, TMS can be used as a treatment, but there are also changes you can make on your own that will have you feeling better in no time.

1.Keep a Journal

Gray mug with a notebook
Unwinding with a cup of tea and sorting through your thoughts can be one of the best ways to destress.

Writing down your thoughts is great for your mental health in general, but it can become even more crucial when you’re feeling especially blue. It has been shown to provide relief from anxiety and stress, and it can be a great chance to redirect your mind in a positive direction. There are no rules to journaling, except to make time for it as often as possible. In this case, it is truly the thought that counts.

2. Aromatherapy

Some studies have suggested that aromatherapy can work to relieve depression, though this theory is still under some scrutiny. Either way, many find the scents of essential oils to have a relaxing effect that may be able to counter the mood drop in winter. This one definitely requires some research first to find which scent would best suit you, as well as being somewhat expensive.

3. Light Therapy

One of the most common and effective treatments for the winter blues, light therapy involves sitting by a light box that provides wavelengths similar to those from the sun for half an hour. It works by suppressing the your body’s melatonin production — the hormone that’s making you feel so sleepy. You can easily do this treatment at home — it’s best if completed in the morning — and light box prices range from about $16 to over $100, mostly depending on the size.

4. Exercise

Runner stretching on a bridge in winter gear
Even in the cold weather, bundle up and get out to exercise and catch some rays — it may help you feel less tired.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the best way to combat your sluggish mood is exercising. It may be difficult to work out outdoors in cold and slushy weather, but that’s no excuse — you can still make a gym date with friends, or even do a workout at home using nothing but your own body weight. In addition to helping you lose any weight you may have been putting on, exercise releases hormones such as serotonin and endorphin that naturally improve your mood. Plus, it sends more blood pumping to your brain which can help with any concentration issues.

5. Vitamin D Supplements

Pills spilling out of a container
Though Vitamin D can be taken in this pill form, you might also want to consider incorporating it into your diet in the form of fruits and vegetables.

Although still debated as a treatment by the scientific community, Vitamin D supplements may be helpful as many people with S.A.D. have been found to have low blood levels of Vitamin D, often from lack of sunlight. To be the most effective, it should be used in conjunction with other treatments.

Of course, when dealing with mental health, it is always best to consult a mental health professional, but in the meantime, these tips may help elevate your mood. This winter, stay healthy, stay safe, and most of all, stay happy!

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