You think you might have seasonal depression (SAD) in Toronto, Canada or Minneapolis, Minnesota. In both cities, the winter can get so cold, that your bones might just start freezing too. Just a trip to the supermarket requires you to throw so many clothes on that, by the time you’re out, you’re already sweating.
In Espoo, Finland, it can get -20 in January. But in comparison with Americans or Canadians, Finns need to deal not only with the cold but also with the dreadful, what-it-feels-like-a-lifetime long darkness.
If you are a late riser like me or you just wanna sleep in the next day after a party, you’ll find that waking up at 13.00 will only leave you with three hours of daylight. Some parts of the countryside of Espoo where I live don’t even have street lights. So, going out for a walk after lunch feels like stepping into a dark highway where the only sounds you’re hearing are of your own footsteps.
Or it feels more like in the intro scene of David Lynch’s Lost Highway. You’re heading through the darkness but it doesn’t lead you anywhere.
Imagine living like this every year from November until March. No wonder Finns are tough people!
Even the strongest person will have a minor breakdown. Let’s face it! People need the sun to be healthier and happier. They need the sun to be motivated to go out and socialize. If there’s no daylight, your mental health can suffer. Here are few things you can do to beat seasonal depression.
1. Buy a light box
Studies show that even artificial light can have a positive impact on your mood.
Mayo Clinic recommends to everyone suffering from the winter blues to not go a day without a light box. The light box has the power to change brain chemicals that lift your mood and ease the symptoms of SAD. They believe it is also important to combine light therapy with counseling for better results. You can try the Northern Light Technology Boxelite on Amazon.
2. Take vitamin D
It’s not fully understood how vitamin D works to alleviate depression, but a prevailing theory is that it boosts levels of brain chemicals called monoamines.This group of neurotransmitters includes serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — all feel-good brain chemicals necessary for a positive mood, says Deane Alban at www.bebrainfit.com.
However, the latest research showed that, depression is not caused by low chemicals in the brain. Apparently, chronic inflammation in the brain is the culprit. Vitamin D can certainly reduce inflammation and boost your immunity.
It is common that Finns line up at the doors of the pharmacies to buy packs of Vitamin D before the dreaded November comes. I was also advised by general practitioners to not skip on this important vitamin especially during the winter time.
3. Book a trip to Spain or Italy
Many Finns I met told me that the way they cope with the all-encompassing darkness during the winter time is to pack their bags and chill in Spain for few months. Actually, Spain is so visited by Finnish people that they made their own community there. According to the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle, there are 107.000 Finnish tourists in Costa del Sol (Andalucia) and even a huge number of permanent residents. While living in Romania, I never thought you can just travel during winter to escape the snow. I am learning a lot from Finns.
4. Be around people who make you happy
The last thing you wanna do during the winter in Finland is to hang out with folks who are negative and toxic.
Be careful who you let into your life during the winter. It is much easier to meet narcissists when you are in a vulnerable state. Set strong boundaries with people and choose to go out with those few folks who can throw in a joke or two when the blizzard outside makes us all serious. If you don’t know who is toxic and who is not, try to analyze how every friend in your life makes you feel. If you have strong, negative emotions towards someone, it means he/she might not be the right person to have around.
Exercise does good for the brain. If you struggle with seasonal depression, book 2-3 gym sessions per week. If you can’t afford going to the gym, grab your sport shoes and do a morning run. Even if it’s -10 outside. It will refresh you.
6. Book a therapist
Even though SAD is caused by the weather in your country, there might be other emotional problems you struggle with like panic attacks or social anxiety. A therapist who can discover the causes that created your anxiety or depression in the first place, might help you build new brain pathways. That means, it will be easier for you to create healthy, coping mechanisms. I think anxiety is a coping mechanism for anger or pain and it’s found in people who lack assertiveness.
Find a mental health professional who will help you dig into your unconscious so you can develop a more empowered, confident you.
7. Go to the woods
In my post ‘How walking in nature can improve your mental health’, I explained that only a short walk in the heart of the forest can make you happy. You don’t even have to stay there long. Breathe in the fresh air of the woods and bathe in that heavenly silence. You’ll feel instantly energized.
8. Watch comedies
I don’t remember when I started watching Friends but since then, my mental health has certainly improved. Now I am watching the show daily and it works as an anti-depressant. Joy is a high vibrational emotion that can change your negative mindset. It does not matter how much you failed in life, how much your job sucks or how lonely you are at the moment. Start feeling joyful for the small things and you will attract more positive experiences into your life.
9. Start a hobby
Do you like photography? Are you excited about the idea of starting a band? Do you know how to write? Practicing a hobby benefits your mental health. If I didn’t have this blog to get me through the beginning of the Finnish winter, I would have stayed in bed for days.
I like the thing that I am doing what I love and help people in the same time. If you don’t know what you’d like to do, check Tiny Buddha’s article, Try this if you’re struggling to find your passion.
Do you have other ideas on how to beat seasonal depression? Share them with our readers.