Healthy Living

How to deal with winter darkness, seasonal affective disorder

(Gazette File Photo)
(Gazette File Photo)

This weekend we turn our clocks back an hour as Daylight Saving time comes to an end. “Falling back” means we gain an extra hour of sleep on Saturday (Hurray!), but it also means we will lose an hour of sunlight in the evenings (Boo!).

Here are tips on how to survive shorter days this winter.

Get outside

With it getting darker earlier, make it a priority to get outside when you can during the day. It can be less alluring with the colder temperatures, but the benefits will be well worth it. Being in nature has the power to increase your energy levels and elevate your mood. So bundle up and enjoy the sunlight in the early mornings if you can. Park your car further away in the parking lot, take a phone call outside, walk on your lunch break or exercise outdoors.

Check Vitamin D Levels

If you are vitamin D deficient, your doctor may suggest a vitamin D supplement, especially during winter months. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” may help boost mood, the immune system and heart health. Low vitamin D levels can contribute to depression, the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Certain foods are good sources of vitamin D, including cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, sardines, eggs and cereals fortified with vitamin D.

Implement nighttime ritual

When it begins to get dark at 5 p.m., it can be hard for our bodies to determine when it’s time to go to bed. If you don’t have a nighttime routine already, now is a good time to introduce one to help you fall asleep. My night time routine includes brushing my teeth, washing my face, applying my favorite facial lotions, a quick prayer with my husband and, depending how tired I am, I will read in bed or listen to my favorite meditation app called HeadSpace. This routine takes anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes, but from repetition, I can notice my body start to unwind when I begin washing my face.

Get moving

Increase endorphins by exercising. Research shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise helps to reduce anxiety and will, ultimately, improve mood. Bonus points if you identify a winter sport you’d like to try like ice skating, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Positive attitude

Our minds are powerful. If you think negative thoughts about winter, chances are you will have a dreary winter. How can you adopt a positive mind-set this winter? Maybe the sunlight in the early morning will motivate you to try meditation, or maybe colder nights will inspire you to dive into a hot yoga class or give the sauna a try. Maybe you book a trip this January or February, organize a get together or add a fun activity to your calendar to have something exciting to look forward to this winter. How will you put a positive spin on these colder — or should I say cozier — months?

Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: kylie@thewellwoman.org

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