As the dreaded end of daylight saving time (Nov. 4) peaks around the corner for those who love their sunlight, it’s time for some tips to combat the winter blues.
Not everyone gets slumped down enough to qualify as having seasonal depression, but you can tell there might be a general drop in energy among your friends and family. School is ramping up during this time. Everyone working seems busy with trying to get projects finished before the Holidays. And a walk around the block becomes suddenly less appealing below 55 degrees.
If you are finding difficulty functioning as well as you used to, you may be a sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Here are some medically-backed, but non-prescription, tips for surviving the winter blues and keeping your energy levels up.
A Therapy Lamp
There are so many options out there for therapy lamps on the Internet, shoppers might be confused as to what qualifies as a therapy lamp and what is the best lamp to purchase. Here are some answers based on experience and science.
Medical Literature recommends at least 10,000 LUX for the brightness. Many therapy lamps around or under the $100 range fit the bill.
NatureBright SunTouch Plus is a top seller which is also the featured picture above. When I bought one a few years ago, they sold for around $75 but now appear to be around $50.
Note: Do NOT use the ionizer on the SunTouch or any lamp. While companies claim negative ionization is better, people aren’t made to breathe ionized air and its safety hasn’t been established.
The pic above shows the spectrum of light that the lamp provides but this colorful effect is only seen when using a camera. When using the lamp, the light will actually look like a white, bright, more natural light to your eyes.
If you want to go all the way in your light therapy, a friend recommends the $475 Sunsqare+. The cost may be burdensome to some but my friend reports it truly is like having a mini sun of your own in your bedroom:
Winter has the power to trigger feelings of hopelessness and depression in adults and youth, alike. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and we have devoted our lives to developing natural light therapy treatment options. #SunBox #MentalHealth #SAD pic.twitter.com/hgG5JJZSTI
— The SunBox Company (@TheSunBox) October 25, 2018
Vitamin D3 Supplements
Vitamin D3 is one of the most important vitamins for mental health and feeling energetic. Get a blood test at your doctor’s to find out your levels during the winter and if it’s a good idea to take a supplement.
Many people take a 1,000 IU D3 supplement in their multivitamin, which is perfectly safe. However, if your blood levels are low, your doctor may recommend up to 50,000 IU once a week.
Taking too much Vitamin D3 can cause excess calcium in your blood. Many vitamins are safe to take at high levels, but because D3 can cause hypercalcemia, a blood test is recommended to figure out how much of the vitamin should be taken.
Exercise – Either Cardio or Strength Training
There’s a debate whether cardio or strength training and weight lifting is best for depression. Honestly it doesn’t matter much as long as you’re doing it. Whatever you enjoy the most and are the most likely to continue performing is best.
Doctors might recommend cardio over strength training, but there is growing evidence for adding strength training or just doing strength training alone. The recommended time for exercise is at least 30 minutes a day, three days a week.
Many gyms such as Planet Fitness and Crunch offer monthly rates as low at $10 a month. With gyms being cheaper than ever, there’s no excuse not to join one if you don’t already have a weekly workout routine.
Hot baths can actually have a great benefit for relieving depression symptoms. There’s many inflammation theories of depression and so a warm to hot bath can have a relaxing effect on your body and lower stress hormones that may throw off your sleep cycle.
Bomb baths and fancy perfumed products can dry your skin. But you can add a teaspoon of an essential oil such as lavender with an unscented gel body wash and create your own aromatherapy bath.
Go Outside and Don’t Live in Alaska
Going outside during the day can pretty much cover all the above suggestions—a winter sport especially will get the blood pumping. The only area you might need help is for the Vitamin D. There’s a maximum amount of Vitamin D your body can produce with sunlight. Many people aren’t getting enough even if they do go outside. So get that blood work done!
Alaska and other northern and southern latitudes have Seasonal Affective Disorder rates at almost 10x higher than other parts of the world. This list may especially useful for people living in these low-light areas.
They have nice tax incentives to move to Alaska. But, if you are a person who loves your sunlight, don’t live there. Just don’t live in Alaska. There’s not much in Alaska anyway besides the Aurora Borealis.
These have been tips that work for me and I can cite references if anyone has questions.
Hopefully I’ll go on vacation to tropical island and get some sun and warm weather come December. Vacation is never a bad idea if you need a mental health break.
Be well this winter!