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beating the winter blues

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There’s a recession on. That’s fairly depressing in and of itself. In addition, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s still pretty wintry. Here in the UK it’s actually the most wintry it’s been for 18 years. Although there’s joy to be found in all seasons, lots of us suffer with mild depression during the winter months.

Self-medicating against depression is generally not a good idea – alcohol is a depressant, cannabis induces lethargy and *up* drugs are generally more quickly addictive. Herbal antidepressants aren’t necessarily safe because they are *natural*; deadly nightshade is natural, but you wouldn’t go around taking that.

Like a broken leg, serious depression is not cured by pulling yourself together and getting over things. Mental health problems should be investigated and appropriate treatment pursued which might include talk therapy and/or medication. An excellent resource in the UK if you are worried about your mental health is the charity MIND which has a whole range of fact sheets and is currently sponsoring an ad campaign (which I fully support) aiming to remove some of the stigma from mental health issues.

However there are quite a few things you can do to help with mild depression, and most of them are frugal:

  • get out in the fresh air and sunlight - SAD is exacerbated by lack of natural light, so take advantage of your lunch break and go for a stroll in the fresh air.
  • take some exercise – depression makes you tired and lethargic, but exercise actually helps you sleep better and can make you more alert. Something small like a 30 minute brisk walk is fairly achieveable and could really make a difference in how you feel
  • eat well – yes, I’m one of those people who spends much of their waking life thinking about food. But, eating the right foods (healthy balanced, including 5 fruit and veg a day) helps give you energy, which you can often lack in depression
  • talk to friends – human beings are social animals. Sometimes just talking to someone yabout the weather, or whatever can really lift your mood. And of course talking to someone you like about a topic that really interests you can do wonders. If you haven’t got any friends to meet up with, then make phone calls. Avoid the draining people though (you know who I mean) as they’ll only sap your energy and make things worse
  • plan something to look forward to – sometimes just the realisation that this will pass can lift your spirits, especially if you are feeling low because of the season / weather. A weekend away, or a day trip, or trying out a new hobby, or anything really that feels positive to you would probably be good.

Of course, one of the problems of depression is that you don’t really feel up to doing anything. Why not give something a try anyway? And honestly, any postive decision or movement is usually good for your mood, which means that it becomes a virtuous circle and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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7 comments for “beating the winter blues”

  1. I also take omega 3 and B-complex supplements.

    Some people find that a light box helps, but they’re fairly expensive I think.

    Posted by Canadian | February 9, 2009, 2:51 pm
  2. And here I thought folks were depressed by the sorry state of the global economy. Guess it’s the weather after all… :-)

    Posted by Shadox | February 10, 2009, 3:59 am
  3. Thanks for the thoughts, I’ve been experiencing some “blues” the past couple days.

    More, I appreciate your advice to those who have serious problems and telling them they can’t just pull themselves together. Depression still has a bit of a stigma, but people need to know it is ok (even good!) to seek help.

    Posted by SP | February 10, 2009, 4:42 am
  4. I think excersize and social interaction are perhaps the most important tools for fighting depression, even if it’s seasonal. It is for me at least.

    It was smart of you to lend some advice for those struggling further with depression.

    Posted by the weakonomist | February 10, 2009, 4:31 pm
  5. @Canadian:
    For SAD a lightbox is probably the best treatment, other than moving much closer to the equator.

    I’m not sure whether it matters what the cause is. The weather is probably going to be fixed sooner than the economy though.

    It’s definitely good to seek help for depression, and help exists. Mental health stigma is bad, just like all illness stigma is bad.

    @the weakonomist:
    Definitely, exercising and socialising are good for everyone, including people who are depressed.

    Posted by plonkee | February 10, 2009, 11:16 pm
  6. I enjoy your advice to those who’ve critical difficulties and telling them they can not just pull themselves together.

    Posted by Cannes apartment rental | September 24, 2010, 2:29 pm

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