While there are many physical challenges in the winter to contend with, there are also behavioral health challenges as well. The days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and then soon it’s dark arriving and leaving work. This can lead to a common issue known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. While there aren’t any concrete answers as to what exactly causes this seasonal depression there are ways to alleviate its effects, the most common is a happy light. A happy light, or any source of light with blue light, is thought to mimic the sunlight and stimulate the production of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being.
Craig Sawchuk, MD, a Mayo Clinic psychologist recommends using a 10,000–lux light box or lamp within the first hour of waking up for about 20 minutes.
“That tends to be about the sweet spot of exposure to that light. You want to make sure that the light is sitting about an arm’s length or so in front of you. You don’t have to stare directly at the light, but you want to keep your eyes open. So you could be doing things like having breakfast or a cup of coffee, watching TV, or working online,” says Dr. Sawchuk.
Socializing and practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also help with mental well-being during the winter. Whether it’s attending a local sporting event such as hockey, or hosting a game night with friends, socializing can be incredibly beneficial when normal outdoor activities are limited in the winter months. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be simple or complex. An effective and simple technique is deep breathing. However, another technique that is seen by many as relaxing is exercise and physical activity.
Maintaining your physical fitness is proven to improve both your physical and mental well-being. Activities such as yoga, stretching and simple cardio can be done in the comfort of your own home if you aren’t a fan of going to the gym. Short daily exercises that are 30 minutes in length can stimulate feelings of accomplishment and happiness while combating seasonal weight gain and depression.