It’s #WELLNESS WEDNESDAY everyone. And, as promised, today we’re going to continue our discussion of depression – post-holiday depression and the general winter depression so many of us feel at this time of year.
Now, it’s important to remember that depression or feeling let down or feeling blue – is a very common experience at this time of year. First, the wonder and excitement of the holidays is over. The festivities and fun have come to an end. All our planning, anticipation and general “busyness” of the season are done. We don’t need to rush anywhere, we probably don’t have friends and family to entertain and our adrenaline doesn’t need to pump nonstop anymore.
Second, while the holidays are filled with fun and joy, they also are filled with stress. If you’re like most of us, there’s usually a bit of family drama to deal with, activities that did not meet our expectations, small daily disappointments and even in the midst of it all, feelings of loneliness or being alone. Especially, if the holidays were spent without loved ones.
Now, let’s add to that the fact that in many parts of the world January is a rather cold, gloomy and dark month anyway. Winter – all by itself – can produce feelings of depression, emotional apathy and physical sluggishness. When we combine all these factors, we have a perfect storm in which our morale, our outlook and our energy can be impacted in a negative way.
So, if this sounds familiar, it’s time to do something about it. Because, it’s one thing to recognize the problem and understand the cause. It’s quite another to find a way to solve it.
We began this discussion earlier this month when we discussed how certain foods could ease the blues. Nourishing and nurturing ourselves through good nutrition is a great way to relieve depression. The key is to pick foods that rev up our neurotransmitters so that our bodies can produce more “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and endorphins – and stock our bodies with omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids and B vitamins. Foods such as fruit, fish, nuts, olive oil and chocolate all fit the bill.
But, to our “nutrition package” let’s add FIVE MORE WAYS we can give ourselves every opportunity to feel good, stay positive, be healthy and remain energetic throughout the post-holiday season and the winter months ahead.
- PLAN FUN ACTIVITIES: Now is a great time to revive some excitement – or a little simple pleasure – for yourself by planning a few favorite activities. Perhaps starting a new class or scheduling a group movie night. Try having a few friends over for dinner and a game of cards. Attend a sporting event or plan a weekend out of town. Get tickets to a concert. Read some of the books on that list you made last year. Take up a new hobby. Stream that series you’ve been meaning to watch. Choose activities that interest you and fit into your budget. These don’t have to be big plans. Just something that you’ll enjoy. Something that you’ll look forward to and anticipate. Something that just sounds like FUN!
- EXPRESS YOURSELF: One of the classic symptoms of depression is when our sense of fun – our sense of playfulness – or our creativity – is blocked. This is when we need to exercise our imagination. We need to get those juices flowing again. Take time out to play – with a friend or your pet. Try painting or drawing. Play a musical instrument or dance. Sing! Try writing a poem – or designing an outfit – or sewing. Listen to music – or compose music. Whatever sounds like fun. And, don’t forget that wonderful self-expression of laughter. Anything that makes you laugh is great! There’s nothing like laughter to release all those “feel good” chemicals that will lighten our mood and make us feel better. So, consider a funny movie marathon – or conduct an online search for funny quotes and stories.
- LET THERE BE LIGHT: Light makes us feel good. It’s welcoming. It’s visually pleasing. After all, what would you rather come home to? A house that’s completely cold and dark? Or a house that has a few warm lights shining through the windows and on the front porch? Be it artificial light or natural light, both have an impact on us physically and emotionally – and both can make us feel good and positive. In small doses, a little sunshine every day helps the skin produce vitamin D, which in turn improves the immune system. It also decreases our risk of developing arthritis, high blood pressure and even some cancers. And, if you live in a place where winter sunshine is rare and you feel a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD from the lack of sunlight, check with your doctor about the benefits of Light Box Therapy. Light is a wonderful way to fight depression and bask in mental well-being.
- FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE: When we feel depressed it’s hard to be positive or see the good things all around us. Yet, this is exactly the time when we need to focus on these things more than ever. Try these simple tips to get you going. Spend some time with other people. This will help focus your attention on others rather than on your blues. Do one small thing each day that you enjoy – like baking cookies, watching sports on TV, walking your dog or playing with your child. Start the day with one positive affirmation such as, “I feel great today!” Or, “I have all the energy I need today to do everything I need to do today!” And, every night write down one thing that happened during the day for which you are grateful. Remember, small steps can lead to big changes!
- EXERCISE: Well, you knew this one was coming 🙂 A huge part of mental well-being is dependent upon physical well-being. It’s vital to get up and move every day. But remember, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective. Take a short walk. Vacuum the house. Rake some leaves. Do a few stretches. Just move! Nor does your exercise routine have to be long. We’re not talking about spending four or five hours in the gym every day or running marathons. If you can, start with five minutes a day. Then work your way up from there. You’ll be amazed how physical movement can clear your mind, increase your energy and boost your mood!
And, here we have a perfect recipe for overcoming the all-too-common post-holiday and winter blues. Focus on the small things in your life that bring you pleasure. Have fun. Laugh. Eat right. Move more. Spend time with family or friends. And, bring in the light! Give it a try and see how you begin to feel. Remember, inch by inch it’s a cinch!
So once again, thanks for joining me everyone. Wishing you GOOD HEALTH and until next time,
TAKE THE COURSE AND TAKE CHARGE!
Time to Review Susan’s Blogs:
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR: FIVE SIMPLE TIPS TO RE-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN FOR 2016
6 GREAT FOODS TO TURN YOUR POST-HOLIDAY BLUES INTO BLISS