‘Tis the season for winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Winter has come early for most so it’s time to prepare for those winter blues now before you find yourself down in a wintery vortex of sadness that only springtime can bring you out.
If you are someone who experiences winter depression, then it’s time to consider ways to prevent it from starting so you can enjoy your winter slumber and sing those Christmas carol’s with joy during Christmas. Who really wants to be Scrooge during Christmas?
Taking care of yourself throughout the changing seasons is similar to taking care of plants in your garden.
Each season brings different care requirements to plants, just like you. Summer, you need to drink more water to stay hydrated and avoid heat stroke during strenuous activity. Spring and fall require a change in clothing such as rain gear and some lighter sweaters. Winter is the most extreme in most places just like garden plants need protecting or some can’t even survive the cold at all.
Here are some natural alternative healthy ways to protect yourself from a SAD winter surprisingly similar to plant care, relating to my gardening friends out there.
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There are 6 incredibly effective ways to prevent Scrooge from showing his mean face this winter:
- Light Therapy
- Vitamin Consumption
- Stabilize Hormones
- Stay Physically Active
- Exercise Your Brain
- Get Enough Sleep
1. Light Therapy
Winter brings colder temperatures, snow, and fewer daylight hours. Alaska can see as low as 5-6 hours of sunlight in the winter months then up to 19-20 hours of daylight hours in the summer. What a difference!
Most states in the U.S. experience some degree of decrease in daylight hours, maybe not as extreme as Alaska! Since Alaska sees such an extreme difference in sunlight, they are the experts of light therapy to cope with wintertime blues.
Much like plants being moved indoors to grow under grow lights where it’s warmer inside, people can benefit in a similar way. There are light therapy devices made special for people during winter months or even extremely clouded cities like Seattle, WA that is much like adding a grow light for your plants indoors.
Light therapy devices provide a safe amount of UV light that acts very similar to the sun. Each device has recommended amounts of time and you can then help your body get a steadier amount of sunlight throughout the season changes.
Plants thrive in sunlight with much more energy and look lively reaching towards the sun, you will feel the same if you make sure you are getting enough daylight, whether it is artificial or not, sunlight will give you more energy, improve symptoms of depression and help your body create vitamin D which is another way to prevent winter depression.
2. Vitamin Consumption
Vitamins help support brain function and other functions in the body that may be interrupted from malnutrition. Some of us can eat unhealthy foods when we are feeling down known as comfort foods making depression symptoms worse. These foods tend to be low in essential vitamins and high in sugars and carbs that send moods through a roller coaster ride.
When a plant is low in essential elements, they don’t grow well, turn yellow, are more susceptible to disease, and look like you feel when you are depressed. They need the right food just like you need the right nutrition that multivitamins can provide.
3. Stabilize Hormones
Did you know that plants have hormones too? Plant hormones are released to tell the plant to make new cells, ripen fruit, signal the need for water, and even drop their lives in the fall!
So when a plant looks stressed, loses their leaves too early from temperature fluctuations, or even flowers multiple times from climate change, the plants’ hormones are getting out of whack.
Do you think your hormones might go out of whack with temperature fluctuations and any other changes that occur with changing seasons? Especially entering a cold winter quickly this year? If you said yes, you are right!
Hormones control a multitude of processes in our bodies. When they get out of whack, your sleep patterns tend to be interrupted, metabolism slows down, headaches can increase, brain fog sets in, and ladies might notice changes in their menstruation.
Hormones are most definitely affected by the onset of winter. Melatonin, serotonin, pituitary hormones, adrenal hormones, sex hormones, and thyroid hormones all can fluctuate during the winter months making you feel SAD.
These hormones are found in your brain and throughout your whole body. They rely on sunlight, nutrition, and physical activity to remain at normal levels. Hormone fluctuations can be a challenge to bring back to normal levels so it is so important to support proper hormone functions at the beginning of the winter season.
Here are some all natural remedies to support hormone function with great success:
- St. John’s Wort
- Avoid Sugar and Carbs
- Take a Multivitamin Everyday – Learn about Ritual vitamins
- Eat a Well-Balanced Nutritious Diet
- Get an Adequate Amount of Sunlight
- Maintain Regular Sleep Schedule
4. Stay Active
The first advice to naturally support hormone function was exercise. Staying active is another way to avoid winter depression.
It can be challenging to move our bodies when there is ice covering your normal walking or running track. The couch and the bed can take over if the weather outside is frightful!
Hormone balancing is not the only reason to stay active during the winter, staying active also releases those feel-good endorphins naturally making you feel happier when you are done. Those endorphins can give you a boost to start your day on the right foot. Staying active also keeps your body from freezing up like the ice outside causing aches and pains, disease, and slowing down your metabolism and immune system.
Going outside in the cold does not give you a cold, it’s the lack of immune support your body needs. Don’t forget about FLU season ramping up!
Plants also need activity and movement to stay healthy. The wind is actually very beneficial to strengthen their root system and reproduce. It’s also important that they don’t get too much movement or too little. Anything over 40 mph wind could be doing more damage than good and too little will make the plant grow weak.
This analogy also helps us to determine what kind of movement we should be doing for physical activity. It is not recommended to start lifting heavy weights in your basement if you don’t normally practice that type of exercise throughout the year.
Yoga is the perfect exercise choice during the winter. If you have never practiced yoga, yoga is known to improve mood, reduce stress, stimulate metabolism, and starting with a gentle practice working your way up to advanced levels is perfect for indoor wintertime exercise.
5. Exercise Your Brain
You may have noticed by now that brain health plays an important part concerning winter depression. Plants may not have a physical brain, but new research suggests they certainly have characteristics of brain-like activity.
Brains need stimulation to grow, learn, and work properly. Staring out the gloomy window feeling down is not a good way to keep brains stimulated.
A great solution to exercise your brain is to read. Your mind is used to being stimulated with more physical outdoor activities in the summer, stimulate it with education, personal growth, or fantasy by reading in the winter.
What better time to read gardening books than in the winter 🙂
6. Get Enough Sleep
Plants follow a circadian rhythm similar to us in a 24 hour period. As soon as the sun goes down, flowers close up, leaves may curl, and photosynthesis stops. The sunlight is their cue to start those hormones and grow until night time where energy will be disbursed to get ready for the morning.
Plants might have a different way of sleeping than we do, but that downtime is very important for both plants and us to feel our best in the morning.
The National Sleep Foundation describes a relationship between sleep and depression. Sleep problems can cause depression and depression can cause sleep problems. With the changing daylight hours of winter, lack of physical and brain exercise, malnutrition, and hormone fluctuations, your circadian rhythm can be affected.
The circadian rhythm getting out of whack, sleep problems will occur. Sleeping too much or insomnia is common.
If you have experienced winter depression or SAD and searching for alternative ways to treat or prevent it, you now can understand how important it is to prevent it early in the season. People are much like plants but unlike plants, you can see problems arise in plants easier than in people.
Thinking about the garden, your health, and wintertime blues, you can get yourself and your garden prepared for spring throughout the winter. This article may really be for the depressed gardener during the winter 😉