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Seasonal Affective Disorder…. The Winter Blahs Author: Kristy Cobillas: M.Ed LPC

If you live in the Midwest, you spend approximately 30% of your life in a darkened wintery existence. Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts approximately 10 million people annually in the US, and it's not something to take lightly.

Symptoms are all too real. Many withdraw as they tell themselves “it's just too cold to go out.” Hypersomnia kicks in due to circadian rhythms adjusting to the shorter hours of daylight. Automatic thoughts of “just buckle down until spring” and “winter sucks'' pervade the consciousness. The fun, outdoor activities of balmier weather go by the wayside and winter weight slowly packs on. Self-destructive tendencies increase due to lethargy, and we gorge ourselves on carbohydrates and sugary foods. “Festive beverages” also become a habit as they hit the “feel good” areas of the brain. It's only a matter of time before we crash and find ourselves sleepy, bloated and slumped over on the couch watching reruns on TV. How can we not be angry with ourselves?

Something has to change.

First, remember that the quality of life depends on what we regularly say to ourselves. Stop focusing on everything you hate about winter and shift your thinking.

How do you do this? A good first step is to stop complaining. We reinforce negativity when it comes out of the mouth to be heard again by the ears. Second, start a gratitude journal in which, every day, you list out three things you are appreciative for. Find things you can enjoy about the winter. Perhaps consider building a fire or purchasing a gently used hot tub. Plan a getaway at the end of January to have something to look forward to. Finally, reach out to those you care about and encourage them out of their own “winter suckiness.” Intentionality is necessary to change these negative thought patterns.

Next, use your time wisely. Don’t wish the cold months away. Winter can be a time to slow down–read that novel that is gathering dust, watch the classic movies, be grateful for not having to cut your grass or tend to your yard. Take on an indoor task such as painting or cleaning out the attic. Get creative: learn to paint, make homemade cards, or play board games with your grandfather or elderly parents. Use winter as an opportunity to help others. Visit those who are truly “shut in,” and take them a bag of groceries.

Last, take care of your physical and neural biological needs. BUNDLE UP! Going outside without proper garments will only make you miserable! When you get tired, eat complex carbohydrates like fruit that will