7 Ways To Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a summertime gal. I love a day of blue skies and warm rays. I moved to Phoenix due to my obsessive sunshine needs. But needless to say, I no longer live in the Southwest and am dealing with some MAJOR gray skies and cold days. 

You may be thinking, "So what? It's just winter!" 

That's true, it is just winter. Some of you are accustomed to this kind of atrocity. But others of you understand where I'm coming from. The gray can really affect you emotionally, mentally, and physically. Especially if you lean towards anxiety and depression symptoms, winter can actually really take a toll on your body. It's called seasonal affective disorder

I'm not here to play WebMD and assist in your self-diagnosis, but I'm simply speaking from one gloomy day gal to other gray sky-dreary pals. No matter how serious your S.A.D. is, or if you really just don't love the winter season, these seven tips may help you maintain a sunny disposition, despite cloudy skies. 

1. Give yourself a reason to get up

One of the hardest parts of gray, "sad" days is getting out of bed in the morning. No one really wants to give up the comfort of their covers for the harsh cold and less-than-cheery outdoors. But you have to. Give yourself one concrete reason to get out of bed in the morning, even if it's just "I have to eat breakfast at 9 a.m. so I can eat lunch on time." Otherwise, you'll lounge around until noon - I know because I've been there. I've gotten into the habit of making appointments in the morning, or going to gym classes that are earlier, so I have someplace I have to be.

Believe it or not, staying in bed all day is really tragic for your mental health. So get up and get moving. Find a reason to go to the grocery store, take a book to the park, or sit in a new coffee shop for a while. You’ll be shocked at how much it helps.

2. Write down one thing you are STOKED about

If you read my post about gratitude, you remember how writing down one thing that you're excited about can be a huge motivational factor. Write down one thing that you're excited about - something that makes you smile. Keep it on a Post-In where you can see it. Smiling is good for you, might as well put it to practice. 

Note that you should actually be excited about this. Even if you need to stash a cookie for a 3 p.m. slump, do what you must in order to actively pursue happiness. 

If you really want to follow through with that cookie plan, check out these white chocolate cranberry cookies.

3. Keep your hype tunes handy

Everyone, even your cranky next-door neighbor, finds themselves toe-tapping when a jam comes on. Music has, time and time again, proven to positively impact stress levels, increasing the allover happiness of a person. This being said, you are easily able to create a space for all of your favorite, bopping tunes where you can turn to in times of need. 

I personally have a variety of Spotify playlists for the choosing, my favorite (and most recent) being "Lil's Soundtrack". Sometimes, if I'm really struggling, I'll pop in my headphones, crank up the tunes, and participate in a little dance party for one. It does wonders, y'all. 

4. Prioritize your daylight hours

Unfortunately, with the winter season comes a lack of daylight. This is a huge reason many people suffer from S.A.D. - they simply spend all day in their offices, only experiencing darkness while outside. Natural light makes a GIANT impact on your mood!! 

If you want to see a little, positive change, use your lunch break to take a walk outside. Sure, you may have to be in an office for a majority of the day, but there isn't (fingers crossed) a chain keeping you at your desk for 8 hours straight. Get up and get outside for a little while - even 10 minutes can brighten your day. 

I actually have an alarm on my calendar, reminding me to “take a walk” at a certain time each day.

5. Exercise now more than ever

I've found it SO much more difficult to get to the gym during winter. It's cold, dark...can't I just watch more Netflix instead? Yet while it is a struggle that I'm sure we've all felt, going to the gym - getting a decent form of exercise - can truly turn your day around if you've felt gloomy. Those happy endorphins that Elle Woods mentioned in Legally Blonde? Yup, turns out that Harvard smartie knew what she was talking about.

When you work out, your body is immediately, physically happier. This correlates with your mental health. Next time you go on a run, just picture that you're running towards sunshine. You'll feel amazing, and get a head start on that summer bod too! 

Make sure you’re also eating well in the winter. Since it’s cold, chances are high you’re not exercising as much - try meal prepping to counteract the urge to order in every night.

6. Accept the extra sleep

Even if you know you have S.A.D., you may not realize what a toll it takes on your body, both mentally and physically. I am still surprised when I sleep a noticeable amount more in the winter months than I do in the summer months.

I don’t like to feel like I’m wasting the day away by sleeping in, but the reality is, my body needs the extra sleep to function. Especially if winter is a “down season” for you, might as well accept the sleep while you can! Don’t feel guilty about it, just listen to your body.

7. Give yourself grace

I really really REALLYYYYY hate it when I feel like I’ve wasted time. This is one of those “internal conversations” I have with myself multiple times in the winter months. Sleeping in? Gah, should’ve gotten a better jump on the morning as to use all my daylight hours. Not feeling perky? Come on, you’re a happy person.

These sweet lil chats are on a rotating loop.

But the fact of the matter is, S.A.D. is not my personality, it’s just something I have to deal with. That being said, it’ll be easier to deal with it if I’m being nice — graceful — to myself.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not necessarily a party. It's also not your fault that you may be experiencing a little gloominess come winter, especially if you're adjusting to a new climate. Just know that, as our dear girl Annie reminds us, winter will soon come to an end. The sun may not come out tomorrow, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

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