Five Tools for Beating the Winter Blues

Every winter I work with a group of people who experience depression, low energy, and fatigue during the fall or winter months. I too have seasonal affective disorder every fall for a few weeks, but I see others struggle with much longer, more severe symptoms. Here are five steps to help feel better when the winter blues are getting the better of you.

  1. Exercise

This can be one of the hardest things to do when you’re already feeling unmotivated, tired, or depressed. Depression is not just a mental feeling; it manifests physically as well, and our bodies can feel heavy or painful when we are depressed. However, even just 30 minutes of gentle movement every day can go a long way to relieving depression. Outdoor walks, yoga or qigong classes, mellow bike rides—it doesn’t really matter what form of exercise you do as long as you do it. Get moving 3-4 times a week especially when you don’t want to.

  1. Acupuncture

Even before I was an acupuncturist, I discovered in my early 20s that acupuncture helped me greatly with my seasonal depression. Now that I work with others suffering from depression, I see how weekly acupuncture can help reduce depression, improve concentration, increase energy, and kick start motivation.

  1. Sleep more

I see many people who feel distressed when they notice a decrease in energy in the winter. You know what? It’s ok to have lower energy in the winter. The days are short, wet and cold, and we are impacted by the natural world around us. We aren’t supposed to feel the same all year long. Be kind to yourself and if you need more rest in the winter, get more sleep. Go to bed earlier, or nap when you are able (if you are one of those lucky people who can nap during the day). My body needs 8 hours of sleep in the summer, and 9-10 hours of sleep in the winter, and that extra sleep feels GREAT.

  1. Get creative

Creativity increases our mental focus, decreases stress and anxiety, and can increase positive feelings. Creativity also increases flexible thinking while giving our executive control part of our brain a break, meaning that you aren’t thinking about work or grocery shopping while you are engrossed in playing music, drawing, or woodworking.

  1. Eat for the season

I’ve written numerous blogs about the importance of eating well, eating on a schedule and eating according to the seasons.  Seasonal eating will help bring your body into balance with the season. In general, your foods should be well cooked and warming in the fall and winter months. This is a good time to switch from salads to slow cooked stews, root vegetables, and slightly spicy teas. Fall and winter seasonings include mustard, garlic, cinnamon, chai, and curry. It is best to avoid cold or frozen foods, and to limit dairy and fried foods during the winter.

If you need support for your seasonal blues and blahs, the acupuncturists at All and One Acupuncture are here to help! Call us today to learn how acupuncture, nutrition, supplements, and herbal therapy can help you get through the challenging Portland winter with vigor and grace.

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