Even if you love winter, the short days and ear-numbing cold can be a drag. And it turns out post-holidays, people don’t just get sad: They get SAD. Norman E. Rosenthal at the National Institutes of Health first classified and named Seasonal Affective Disorder in 1984 to describe seasonally recurring depressive symptoms in people who otherwise exhibit normal mental health throughout the year.
Treatments for SAD run from light therapy to negatively charged ions to prescription medication. But even if the long winter only gets you sad-with-a-lowercase-s, there are some things you can do to avoid the winter blues. Here are a few tips from around the ABODO office — which, you should know, is in snowy, frigid Wisconsin.
- Go Outside
It might hurt. It might be -15 degrees. But sometimes the best way to cure the winter blues is by embracing the season. Build a snowman, take a snow hike, get those ancient cross-country skis that no one uses out of your shared basement and then strap them to your feet. It’ll get your blood pumping, and exercise — especially when combined with mild UV exposure — has shown marked effects in combatting depression.
- …or, Just Buy a Light Therapy Lamp Already
Light therapy lamps like this one blast light at 10,000 lux, a far higher intensity than standard lamps. Sitting in front of one for 30 to 60 minutes a day is supposed to inhibit melatonin, re-establish normal circadian rhythms, and help normalize vitamin-D levels (usually fostered by regular exposure to sunlight). It might look like a bug-zapper, but it could save your January.
- In-Apartment Workouts
Whether you’re into pilates or pull-ups, working out in your apartment can do more than just tone your abs. Moving your furniture around to make room for your yoga mat — and then moving your body around, too — can also help you see your space in a new way. And if you’re doing The Seven Minute Workout — which includes jumping jacks, planks, and sit-ups — you’ll see it from a different set of angles, too.
- The Preparation of Rare Delicacies
“I’m not much of a cook,” you say. “My expertise ends with Kraft macaroni and grating sharp cheddar over my microwaveable ramen.” But what better time to learn a new skill than when you’re literally trapped in a room? Winter is a great time to learn to cook some new things, if only because it’s too cold to just forget it and walk down to the pizzeria. Pick a cuisine with which you’re not too familiar, or which usually requires more time than you’re willing to spend on dinner. If you get far enough out of your comfort zone — Tunisian meatballs, anyone? How about Okinawan Pig’s Foot Soup? — you might find that time flies. Not to mention a new favorite dish.
- Find a Plant to Nurture
Think of it as a rescue project: your ficus or bonsai could never survive the winter out there without you. It NEEDS you. And it turns out that being needed is nice. So is cleaner air: NASA studies have shown that houseplants eliminate not only CO2 from home spaces, but also carcinogens from off-gassing paints and adhesives, as well as pollutants that you might have brought inside with you on your clothes. Plus, all that green is a reminder that eventually, no matter how bleak it looks outside, spring is on its way.