Finally! We’re starting to see some more sunshine. The days are gradually getting a little bit longer, too. It’s about time. During the entire month of January, there were only three days with measurable and soul-elevating sunshine…and one of those days was the very last day of the month.
Consequently, all those gray days of winter can create or exasperate an actual clinical diagnosis for something quite aptly called SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Am I SAD?
SAD is more than just feeling a little bit blue. Symptoms can range from benign to more acute, particularly for people who have other related diagnoses. Studies cite that five-percent of Americans suffer with SAD with a strong concentration in Great Lakes region where the lack of ice cover on the lakes the past few years actually create more cloud cover.
SAD symptoms may include:
- Feeling down or just quite yourself for a day or several days;
- Losing interest in the things that generally make you feel happy;
- Sleeping too much or too little;
- Lacking energy or pep;
- Losing focus and inability to concentrate;
- Food cravings for things sugary snacks or carby comforts like bread; and
- At the very worst, feeling hopeless.
How Can I Turn This Around?
Your doctor may recommend a daily dose of Vitamin D (which you usually attract when you’re outside in sunlight) or other medications to help manage your mood. Some docs recommend light therapy; light boxes are readily available this burst of artificial light can simulate the warmth of the sun. Check with your doctor or mental health professional to make sure these therapies are right for you.
There are the other things you can do to make your own sunshine:
- Socialize. Even if you’re a natural introvert, engage with friends or family. Even a quick phone call or visit can help.
- Get outside. Even on a gray day, a 10-minute walk outside is a proven mood booster. Dress for the elements and throw on a brightly colored scarf or gloves to give yourself a boost.
- Break the monotony. Enroll in a class. Continuing education classes offered by many school districts are modestly priced and some can be free. There are great classes and activities at branch libraries, too.
- Dust off an old hobby or look for something new to do. Again, your library is a great source for monthly sessions for things like knitting, book discission groups, and Lego building for kids and adults. If you really want to get moving, check out Pickleball: community centers have leagues and open sessions.
- Move! Winter sports like ice skating or the ice bikes at Canalside get you moving and around other people, too. Or just put on the music and dance. It’s even better if no one is watching. Just be yourself and let the endorphins flow.
- Curl up with a good book or help someone learn to read. You can volunteer your time at Read to Succeed or Literacy Buffalo Niagara. The act of giving and sharing has strong therapeutic effects on mood: giving your time and talent is the gift you give yourself.
- Think spring! Help the kids in your life make a paper chain that counts the days to spring or start leafing through magazines and catalogues to plan your garden.
Above all, take care of yourself. Eat properly. Rest. Hydrate. And if these simple tips aren’t lifting your spirits, call your medical doctor for guidance and reach out for help, too. Spectrum Health is here for you in any weather.