As the days become shorter and the weather gets colder, do you find that you are more likely to feel sad or out of sorts? You’re not alone. Many experience this change in mood. Consider the following, though, before throwing in the towel and resigning yourself to a few months of misery. The very world outside your window is full of beautiful nature and holds a powerful antidote you can’t find anywhere else.
During a significant change in weather, people tend to decrease going outside. It’s like the sun gets up late, we get up late, and rush off to work late. We get home exhausted, only to watch the media as the sun goes down. I want to challenge you to remain active in the sun or outdoors as much as you can as it can improve your mood.
1. Walk Outside.
I know this can seem daunting but a study done by the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a research, in which they found that the act of just walking led to enhanced creativity in 81% of the participants. The study also found that walking outside had the highest outcomes, as compared to walking on a treadmill indoors. Nature is hard to simulate, as natural scenery, air, and light, is healing to the body. Think of it this way— is it more effective to immerse yourself in a bath to get clean then hand wash yourself with a towel.
2. Enjoy the patio or landscape at your home.
To do this, all you need to do is take a few steps outside your door. This makes being in nature accessible, especially if you have a busy schedule. Create some patio seating, or even take a blanket or yoga mat outside. Try to eat your dinner or breakfast outside. If you are eerie of bugs, buy a tabletop tiki torch or citronella candle. A few minutes outside can make you feel better, less stressed, angry, or afraid.
3. Plan outdoor adventures.
Believe it or not, there are tons of fall and winter activities that you can do. Resist the temptation to stay indoors on the weekends and make a plan to do something outside. Try going to the petting zoo, corn maze, kayaking, hiking, fishing, have a snowball fight, or you can even travel somewhere warm! The opportunities are endless with a bit of planning.
SUPPLEMENT VITAMIN D
When we spend less time outside in the fall & winter months, the skin receives less direct sunshine, and as a result, our bodies manufacture less vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency have been linked to clinically significant depressive symptoms. This is likely due to the fact that vitamin D has a part in the activation of the serotonin neurotransmitter.
1. Change Your Diet.
Breakfast/Brunch Recipe- Quiche with cheese, onion, and zucchini.
Lunch Recipe- Salad with Salmon, Eggs, Mango, and Sliced Avocado.
Dinner Recipe- Shrimp Lo Mein with Veggies, and Shitake Mushrooms.
2. Try Light Therapy.
This approach involves the deliberate exposure to a speciality light fixture, called a therapy lamp. If you use this light in the mornings or during non-standard daylight hours it is found to be very effective.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If the weather has significantly impacted your mood for over 2 weeks, and you're finding it difficult to get the motivation to get outside, change your diet, or try light therapy, you may need additional help to get out of your rut.
1. Try Speaking with Your Primary Care Physician
Your physician can test to see if you have an underlying reason for why you are not feeling well. Some health conditions, such as those that impact muscle and joint pain can become more prominent during the cooler months. Untreated pain often leads to significant mood impairment. Your physician can also prescribe you medication or supplements to help you along.
2. Try Speaking with A Licensed Mental Health Therapist
Partnering with a licensed mental health therapist can help you achieve an improved mood, much faster than you would alone. A lot of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas,Valentine’s Day) happen during the cooler months and if you have experienced any significant losses, these proximal holidays may cause subsequent episodes of grief, causing depressive symptoms. Some people, simply are experiencing SeasonalAffective Disorder, a depressive disorder that happens when your skin receives less sun.A therapist can help support you through this difficulty and suggest small actionable steps you can take to cope each day.
Being in nature is part of our nature as humans. When the weather changes, our bodies undergo change. When the sun, our source of energy decreases, we have the power to increase our personal energy. If you are struggling with the weather blues, try the recommendations above to get back on track.
Shanelle Koroma LPHA, LCSW
Co-Owner of Ujima Retreat Center, Urbana, IL
Licensed Mental Health Therapist
Tefft, N. (2012). Mental Health and Employment: The sad story. Economics & Human Biology, 10(3), 242–255. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2011.08.006
Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4673349/#B35