7 Ways to Stave Off Post-Holiday Winter Depression

Holidays are done, the money is gone, and you are home, broke and alone. (We’ll perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but I bet it feels like that for many at this time). You want to slip into your warm, big bed and not leave it until the spring. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that? But unfortunately, you can’t, and the long-dreaded Monday is coming. And so is the dreary routine, the daily commute, and the empty, small talk at the office with colleagues you don’t like that much. While you are nodding to your away, pretending to be engaged in the conversation, your gaze wanders off out the window into the cold, bleak day outside. You sigh – this month will never end.

When we put it like this — of course you’ll feel depressed — who wouldn’t? Don’t worry; you are not the only one dealing with the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka winter blues. Research shows that one in five Americans suffers from it. Now, just because it’s so easy to get depressed at this time of the year, it doesn’t mean that you should. Take the road less travelled by. Be happy in January too!

Loads of strategies have proved successful in defeating winter depression. Here are some tried and tested ones:

1. Find yourself a new mission.

Ideally, after coming back from a holiday, you’ll be feeling pumped and energetic to make some changes in your life. Maybe it’s introducing a new, healthy habit, taking up a new hobby or replacing those annoyingly leaking pipes in the bathroom. There’s always a new challenge to undertake, just look around.

2. Your life continues after your holiday too!

Don’t wait for your holiday to be happy. It’s like those people who spend their whole workweek thinking about the weekend. Don’t limit your joys to specific time periods because you’ll be spending a big part of your life in expectations, cravings and misery.

3. Change your mindset.

Some people just like to complain. And no matter the situation, they will find a reason to do so. If you think you belong to this category; ask yourself, is your “glass half-empty” attitude really bringing you any good? Sure, it’s making you feel nice because we all like to be right. But hating things is just too easy. Getting out of this harmful thinking pattern is the real challenge.

4. Employ positive self-talk.

In the beginning, it might seem like you are trying too hard, but it’s just until this new habit of positive thinking settles in. Consciously changing your self-talk affects how you feel about things. Do a simple experiment: next time you are trying to do something you don’t feel confident about, first to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ and then ‘I can do this’. Notice how differently you’ll feel about the challenge in the two cases.

5. Introduce small pleasures into your daily routine.

Make a list of everything that makes you happy and do at least one thing each day.
Be it a smoothie to go with your morning coffee, a long, hot bath after work, or dancing naked in the bedroom, go for it. You always wanted a puppy – go for it, don’t worry about the hairs. Cleanliness is a relative thing.

6. Socialize.

You probably wince at the very idea of having to leave your apartment and go out into the cold, winter weather. Chilling in your pajamas while watching Modern Family re-runs is ok to do once in a while, but don’t let it become a routine. You will be missing out.

When we feel depressed, we need other people’s energy even more. Dress up, get a new haircut, feel nice about your looks and go for a drink with your friends. If you feel like your thoughts are too dark, don’t share them; listen instead. Maybe not everyone is having days as grey as yours. If you focus on your own miseries only, you might be missing out on the positive things happening in your friends’ lives.

7. A healthy mind in a healthy body.

How you treat your body has a direct impact on how you feel. Here’s a simple test to prove it: notice how differently you feel after eating junk food as opposed to your mom’s cooking. So, make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Eat foods that regulate your serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter directly connected with depression). Also, research has demonstrated that people who exercise regularly show less symptoms of depression. Exercise regularly because this raises endorphin, which gives you that nice feeling of euphoria. Don’t give in to excuses. Exercise no matter the rain, fatigue, or ‘more important stuff to do’. Nothing is more important than your health.

Take vitamins — especially vitamin D. In the winter days we are less exposed to sunlight; consequently, our vitamin D levels drop. This vitamin is especially important because it promotes bone growth and many other bodily functions.

Eat dark chocolate because it will raise your dopamine levels. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter released in our body when we engage in pleasure-inducing activities such as sex or food. It gives us feelings of enjoyment.

Another hormone not to be neglected is melatonin, which regulates the sleep cycle; lower levels of melatonin are connected with irregular sleep or insomnia. It is advisable to take melatonin supplements during winter days, but consult with your doctor to establish the best time for your body to take it because everyone’s needs are different.

Be happy.

Finally, the ultimate problem with any kind of depression is that we get sucked into our pessimistic perception of the world so deep that we don’t want to leave it. We like being right. And if someone, for example, a friend, tries to explain to us that things are not as black as we see them, we dismiss their comforts, saying that they’ve been watching The Secret again. If you see that something – a thought– is making you miserable, change it. You don’t want to be miserable, you want to be happy. So be happy… it will make all the difference.

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