Don’t be SAD this winter

It’s January. It’s January in Lansing, MI. It’s January in Lansing, MI in the year 2014, which by most accounts, has been one of the most “winter-like” winters we’ve seen around here in a long time. We’ve had snow on the ground almost constantly from the end of November last year until now. It’s also been extremely cold. This time of year is often difficult for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, like me. When there’s an extra long, dreary winter like there has been this year, it’s even more difficult to handle the doldrums, melancholy and sadness that can sometimes seep in during a Michigan winter. I’d like to offer up some of my remedies, not as a professional, because if you are a serious sufferer you need to seek professional treatment, but as someone who finds these winter greys a bit too much sometimes.

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  • Exercise: I know this one seems obvious but there’s a lot that goes into winter exercising. I honestly love exercising in the winter. But I think the trick is finding the activity that you really like to do, that’s worth going out into that cold for. There’s a few extra steps needed for winter fun. The first is clothing. All Michiganders are taught at an early age to layer. This is especially important while exercising outside. You can layer socks, gloves, shirts and pants. Always bring more than you need as you can add more as needed but only if it’s on hand. Some of the activities I like to do are ski and sled. There’s also walking, running, skating, tobogganing, ice fishing, shoveling, snow sculpting (playing in the snow), snowball fighting, and snow football. A second thing to remember is bring water! Most outdoor water fountains are shut off this time of year. It’s really important to bring your own. A third thing is you do get warm while exercising outside. Even though it’s negative 12 wind chill you are exerting energy, probably more so than in the warmer months. I’ve come home from skiing with all my layers drenched. My final suggestion is to get dry and warm fast! The worst part of winter activities is getting wet and chilled and not being able to warm up. Be prepared with dry clothes, heat, warm drinks or even a dip in a hot tub or shower if you can.

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  • Color:  It’s that time of year where everything is grey, white or grey/white. Wear brightly colored shirts. I love wearing super bright knee high socks or slippers. Put a bow in your hair. Do anything that adds some color to your day. If by chance there’s a blue sky, don’t let it go without a notice. You really have no idea when you’ll see that gorgeous blue again.

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  • Sunshine: From November until March true warm on your skin sunshine is hard to find. But when it does come out you just hang onto it and don’t let go. Sit in the window, go for a drive, take a walk, and enjoy it. 

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  • Flowers: This idea stems from both a color perspective and a desperate need for spring. At any time you need, go and buy some bright flowers. Put them in a vase and enjoy their beauty. There is nothing more refreshing than some glorious spring flowers. And men, pretend you are buying them for your significant other or daughter and enjoy them too.

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  • Food: I am constantly craving starchy carbohydrates this time of year. Don’t do it. They may make you feel better momentarily but the heavy, bloating feeling they cause a few hours later just isn’t worth it. These types of food may also affect your mood. There is much discussion about wheat and its negative effects on behavior. If you feel you might have problems with wheat, eliminate it for a while and see if it makes you feel better. As with the flowers, I suggest bringing in color again. This is a great time of year to eat brightly colored vegetables. You can make them into warm, yummy soups or sauté with a bit of olive oil. Add your fruits too. Florida oranges are usually pretty cheap right now. All those A,B, & C Vitamins, will do a bunch of good for your mood. Don’t shy away from chocolate too. It has been known to elevate serotonin levels which are the feel good hormone. Try dark chocolate if you can, it’s better for you. Other foods I like are hot teas especially peppermint and chamomile. Always consult with a doctor about your diet. These are just some of my techniques to get me through the winter months.

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  • Remove Negativity: For the first time ever, I had to take a Facebook fast. For whatever reason I was not able to filter out the negative posts, comments and activities like I normally can. I was letting it get to me and it was really depressing me. If you are being influenced by negative thoughts or ideas you really need to balance that with some positive. Most negative thinking is false thinking. Think about the things you tell yourself. Now examine it. Does it really ring true? If someone said the same thing to you would you believe them? Would you be willing to sit your child down and tell them, honestly, that those names or ideas you keep telling yourself are true? Don’t be your worst enemy, be your best friend. It is true that people will treat you like you treat yourself. Eliminate all negative self talk and see you it doesn’t enhance your mood.

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  • Be realistic: As much as all this dreary weather can wear on us, always remember it too shall pass. The buds of spring are really much closer than we think. Even though the calendar says spring is two months away, we know in our hearts that there’s always a bit of hope at pretty much any time now. Ground Hog’s Day is only 12 days away and Valentine’s Day is 12 days after that. Add another two weeks and we’re at the beginning of March. That’s not so bad.

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Again, S.A.D. can be a serious condition. This blog in no way represents medical advice. If you are having serious symptoms you must seek out a professional. This blog represents personal ideas and should not be mistaken as medical advice.

Ariniko O’Meara is a natural light photographer in the Lansing, Michigan area. She specializes in family photography including candid and portraiture shooting styles.  All photographs within in this blog are protected under copyright law. ©Ariniko Artistry 2014

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