Updated: Jan 23
Got the Michigan Winter Blues? Here is a guide on how to handle Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually in the fall and winter months. This condition is caused by a lack of sunlight, which disrupts the body's circadian rhythm and affects the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. In Michigan, where the winters are long, cold and cloudy, SAD is a common problem. However, there are ways to battle this condition and improve your mood during Michigan’s winter months.
One of the most effective ways to combat SAD is by getting more sunlight. While it may seem difficult during the winter months, here are a few strategies that can help. One option is to take a walk or spend time outside during the day, even if it's cold. The sun's rays, even through the clouds, can still reach your skin and help regulate your circadian rhythm. Another option if you work the swing shift or have mobility limitations is to invest in a light box, which simulates sunlight and can be used at home or at work. Light boxes are available in a variety of sizes and can be used for 30 minutes to an hour each day.
When choosing a light therapy box, there are a few key factors to consider:
Brightness: Look for a box that emits at least 10,000 lux of light, which is the minimum recommended intensity for effective light therapy.
Size: Consider the size of the box and how it will fit in your home or office. A larger box may be more effective, but it may also be less portable and take up more space.
UV-free: Be sure to choose a light therapy box that is UV-free, as UV rays can be harmful to the eyes and skin.
Timer function: Some light therapy boxes come with a timer function, which can be helpful in ensuring that you receive the recommended amount of light each day.
Certifications: Check if the light therapy box is certified by the FDA, which is an indicator that it meets certain safety and efficacy standards.
Cost: Compare prices and features of different light therapy boxes to find one that fits your budget and needs.
It's always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using light therapy, especially if you have a history of eye problems or are taking certain medications.
Regular exercise is another strategy for combating SAD. Exercise can boost mood and endorphin levels, which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Even light exercise, like a brisk walk, can be beneficial. Exercising in the sun can be especially beneficial. As you feel better you might want to learn a new activity. Choosing to embrace the cold and snow can start to change a negative mindset. Michigan offers a wide variety of winter outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, fat tire biking, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross country and downhill skiing. There are many reasons why nature seems to improve our mental health. It could be the sights, smells, and sounds of nature. For me, I run a ruck club where I get together with friends for social fitness activities. The benefits I feel from participating with my ruck club: It gets me outside away from daily stressors, works my muscles, and allows me to be social with my community and the people I ruck with. Check your area for local outdoor clubs.
In addition to exercise, other self-care practices can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of SAD. These include eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene, and practicing stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation.
Connecting with people
Connecting with others is another effective way to combat SAD. Spending time with friends and family, engaging in social activities, or joining a support group can all help improve mood and alleviate feelings of isolation if you can't get outdoors. To get started here are some ideas local to our office. Get creative by attending a local art class one in Mt Pleasant is Art Reach of Mid Michigan participate with local theater like the Broadway Theater , maybe find some local music at get out and get connected. Find other local activities Meet Mt. Pleasant
Don’t feel like you need to make these changes all at once. Wake up every day and start new incremental goals. If this feels overwhelming to you and you find yourself feeling down, hopeless, or unable to enjoy the things you once loved, it's important to reach out for help. You don't have to suffer alone. With the right treatment and support, you can get through the long cold dark Michigan winter months and enjoy the rest of the year. If you need more professional help Chapters Counseling in Mt Pleasant is here to help, in person or virtual.