Large swaths of the population suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The shorter days and longer nights during the fall and winter months, coupled with the oftentimes inclement weather, can make anyone feel downright lethargic and anti-social. Feelings of depression or sadness can be brought on by changes to your biological clock, reduced serotonin levels, and lower melatonin levels. What is really happening during this time is the chemistry inside your body is being thrown off and it permeates other aspects of your life.
Don’t just brush these feelings off as the blues. There are steps you can take to help your mood and improve your energy levels all year round. Not everyone suffers from seasonal affective disorder, but everyone can benefit from sunlight therapies and self-care regimens. In this guide, you’re going to learn how to get some extra sunlight throughout the winter days, supplement your vitamin D intake, improve your sleep habits, and eat healthier meals.
Steps to get more sunlight throughout your day
One of the first steps to combating the “winter blues,” better known as a seasonal affective disorder, is to introduce more sunlight into your days. You may need to make some adjustments to your sleep pattern, eating habits, and work style; but it will be well worth the effort when you’re feeling more like yourself and your energy levels are back to normal.
Wake up earlier
Most of us work demanding jobs that zap our energy levels by the time we get home, only to find it challenging to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Taking some melatonin-infused chamomile tea (or sleepy-time tea) shortly before bed can help you relax and fall into a deep slumber much more easily. Setting your alarm clock and waking up one hour earlier can allow your body to take in as much sunlight as possible, as early as possible, during your day.
Sleep with the curtains open
It’s a lot easier to get up and out of bed when your bedroom is full of light. If it’s possible for you to sleep with blinds or curtains open, this will ensure you wake up to a flood of bright sunlight, which can help start your day off right. You’ll start to notice your energy levels in the mornings improving the more you can capitalize on the early morning sunlight. Natural light in the morning can really set the mood for the rest of the day.
Early morning exercises
Jogging, running, biking, or even rollerblading outdoors, weather permitting, can really set the tone for the day. Not only will you start getting that early morning sunlight but your boost in endorphins and adrenaline will really give you a much-needed boost to propel you through the day. Endorphins are the chemicals or hormones released by the brain that help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
Eat your meals in the sun
Eating your meals in the sunlight ensures you’re getting at least 30 minutes of exposure to the sun. If you can eat your meals outdoors, even better. Early morning sun and afternoon sun are vital to improving your mood and getting any bit of vitamin D you can get during your downtime. It may not always be possible to eat outside. Perhaps situating yourself next to an open window is the next best option. Either way, it’s about increasing your exposure to natural light. There is no one size fits all solution.
Reposition your desk near a window
This is a bit harder to do as most offices have preselected seating or lack many windows to work next to. If you can negotiate with your office manager or boss to reposition your desk near a window, seize the opportunity. You’ll notice your mood is improved throughout the day just by soaking in as much natural light as possible.
If you can’t make any progress on this front, take a few minutes to go get coffee from a coffee shop or even take some sun breaks throughout the day (like smoke breaks without the smoking or guilt). Even just an extra five to ten minutes of natural light every hour or two can help dramatically, especially if you’re sheltered from the sun the entire working day.
Invest in a light therapy lamp
Light therapy lamps are a lifesaver in the Yukon Territory of Canada, where sunlight can be non-existent for large chunks of the year. Although light therapy lamps do not provide vitamin D like sunlight, the bright light mimicking natural light has been shown to improve the moods of people using them. It’s best to sit within a couple of feet of the lamp wherever you sit indoors for extended periods of time, such as your desk or couch. There is a large market for light therapy lamps on Amazon that you can research. Look at customer reviews and specifications to find a quality therapy lamp that’s right for you.
Extra steps to improve your mood
While natural sunlight is the best defense against seasonal affective disorder, it may not always be enough. Here are a few extra measures you can implement in your daily routine right now to start improving your energy and mood. Remember that when you feel better, you’ll think better, look better, and live better.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol is a natural depressant, so reducing or ceasing your alcohol consumption altogether can greatly improve your mood and energy levels. This will also keep your mind sharp so you can continue to focus on doing what makes you feel better.
Improve your dietary habits
Eat more Vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, salmon, tuna, swordfish, fortified cereals, and fortified orange juice. When comparing vitamin D-rich foods, vitamin D3 tends to stay in the body at higher concentrations for longer; making it the preferred vitamin D to consume. Be sure that your diet includes a variety of fruits, proteins, vegetables, nuts, etc.
Take vitamin supplements
Vitamin supplements are another great way to consume vitamins when sunlight simply isn’t enough. This is great for vegetarians as well, since most supplements and fortified foods are full of plant-based derived vitamin D2. There are some vitamin D3 supplements as well, but vitamin D3 is derived from animals.
Adjust your sleep patterns
The nights are longer and the days are shorter in winter. If you can adjust your sleep cycle to wake up even just a little earlier than you have to, you’ll give yourself a chance at more exposure to natural light. Try not to drink caffeine at least 6 hours before bed and even make yourself some tea to help you relax.