In a world ablaze with artificial light, it’s easy to forget that only a century ago, our ancestors ordered their daily lives according to the rising and setting of the sun. Long, bright days occurred during the season of plenty, and shortening work hours signaled the coming of winter. So when the summer sun falters, it’s no surprise that many people feel a growing irritability, a dipping of spirits, and a darkening of mood.
If you feel a looming depression as the seasons change, consider these 5 all-natural ways to lift your spirits.
Turn Your Face Toward The Sun
The winter blues, or, in its more serious form, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), rarely occurs among people who live within 30 degrees of the equator. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, consider planning an annual mid-winter vacation in tropical climes. It takes at least two or three days of basking to mitigate the symptoms of the blues, but the positive effects often last much longer than the tan.
Bring The Sun To You
Phototherapy is one of the primary all-natural ways to decrease irritability and moodiness—and a lot cheaper than a trip to Aruba. Light boxes that mimic sunshine are available without a prescription and come in different intensities and sizes. Be sure to choose one that filters out UV light and is designed specifically to alleviate symptoms of SAD.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, which create happy, euphoric feelings. Exercising outside—by jogging, skiing, snowboarding, or hiking—gives you a double benefit because it allows you to soak up what natural sunlight is available.
Live Like It’s The 1800s
Before electricity and gas lighting, our ancestors woke with the sun. Mimic the experience by using a sunrise alarm clock. These inexpensive gadgets, placed bedside, are programmed to slowly increase natural light, which is a far gentler way to greet the world than the abrupt, dissonant blaring of an alarm.
You Are What You Eat
Some scientists postulate that the carbohydrate cravings that people frequently experience in the winter are due, in part, to decreased levels of serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, so it can’t hurt to eat foods rich in this amino acid. Fill your plate with whole grains, turkey, eggs, and citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges.
About 10 to 20% of Americans experience a mild form of the winter blues, but around 5% may experience the far more serious seasonal affective disorder. If your seasonal mood changes aren’t helped by the suggestions above, don’t suffer needlessly. Consider consulting a medical professional to talk about psychotherapy and/or medications.