As the summer dies, a part of my soul goes right along with it—dreading the dark and dreary months to come.
I live in New York City, but I’m a true California girl in my heart, and body.
Realizing that another excruciatingly-long and frigid New York winter is just around the corner is sometimes more than I can bear. And for many people, seasonal depression is no joke.
It’s estimated that one in four Americans suffer from mild depression from October through April, and 11 million Americans have a more severe form of winter depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
For those of us who live in the colder parts of the world, here are some ways we can maintain a positive attitude—even through the coldest and dreariest months of the year:
1. Meditation or self-hypnosis
Meditation and Hypnosis are both powerful ways of clearing our minds of negative thinking—allowing space for clarity and creativity. They can reduce stress, control anxiety, and also promote emotional health.
I personally love using self-hypnosis, which is much like guided meditation, to remove negative energy and limiting thoughts. It helps me to feel more confident, focused, and mindful. Since we all aren’t trained at self-hypnosis, I put together this 15-minute stress release and relaxation video for you.
Movement improves our mood and mental health. During exercise, the brain releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins throughout the body. Physical activity is also known to reduce anxiety, alleviate a depressed mood, and enhance our self-esteem. However, not all of us exercise regularly or are raging fans of the gym. Fortunately, there are alternatives to traditional exercise. I had a client who wanted to lose weight but hated the idea of working out. So he would blast the Grateful Dead and dance around his house when no one was home. We can all find activities that we enjoy that will keep our body moving. I often find that some of my best and most inspired ideas come to me during a long cardio workout, when my mind has time to wander.
3. Turn off the news
We all know by now that nothing really great is going to come from watching the news, and it certainly won’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, most of what’s spewed from the mainstream media is pretty toxic. For those of us who feel the need to watch something, head over to Netflix and find a comedy, or something fun on YouTube (it’s free). My personal favorite YouTube channel to binge watch is Shane Dawson who is fun, funny, and loves exploring conspiracy theories. We can definitely all find something to enjoy while the news is turned off. In the meantime, if something really important happens, it’s safe to say we’ll find out anyway.
4. Set long and short-term goals
While achieving those big wins make us feel a sense of accomplishment, the small wins allow us to feel like we are making progress. It’s important to set both long and short-term goals because it gives us a feeling of purpose, and it’s always great to have something to feel hopeful about, and look forward to in the future.
For those of us who are not great at setting and keeping our goals, it’s okay to start small. We can begin by picking one thing we want to accomplish this week that might be out of our normal pattern and schedule it. Then notice how great we feel when it’s completed.
5. Stay connected
While technology and social media have their place in our lives, nothing beats real human interaction. I suggest spend time visiting with friends, family, and loved ones. If visiting is not an option, a phone call is always the next best thing. Since my entire family still lives on the west coast, I make a point to call my parents regularly to check in and catch up on all the family drama.
6. Tap into your inner child
As we get older, sometimes we get so caught up in our mundane lives that we forget to have fun. As it turns out, I am a perfect example of this. I have a tendency to forget about fun and focus only on my career, and it’s something I have to be mindful of daily.
As a child and young adult, I spent all of my free time singing, acting, and performing in musicals. It was my passion. When I got into the professional arena of acting in New York City, and then discovered the business aspects of it—my passion for that craft changed. I awoke to a whole new world and love of expanding my skills in the self-development field as a coach and learning Hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). But somehow I forgot how to just let go and have fun.
In order to stay connected to our love of life, we need to ask ourselves, what were the things we liked to do as a child? Did you enjoy playing sports, dancing, painting, riding your bike, or something else that you’ve seemingly forgotten? If we just pick an activity that we used to love and schedule a time to do it each week, we might find a little fun can go a long way.
7. Increase your exposure to light
Most of us are unable to get enough outdoor sunlight during these dark and dreary months, and regular indoor lighting has no positive effect on our mood. One solution I’ve found is an artificial sunbox that has special fluorescent tubes mimicking the sun’s beneficial rays. These lights are considered the go-to treatment for those with any level of winter depression. I know from personal experience, in the colder months, my vitamin D levels go down significantly due to lack of sunlight. Low levels of vitamin D and B vitamins can contribute to a melancholy mood. If you aren’t getting these vitamins through sunlight and diet, try supplementing for an optimal emotional state.
If you experience mild or even severe depression during the cold and dark winter months, try incorporating some or even all of these tips for a happier more positive attitude this season.
Bonus video: Scott Jurek: How to Run, How to Eat.