It’s January. For some people, January and February are the months they want to just go hibernate with the bears. They’re not sure if what they have clinically qualifies as “depression,” per se. But you can’t tell them they don’t feel blue, and they know it’s because of the gray.
As with any psychological or emotional issue, see a professional and get yourself a real diagnosis. We don’t provide medical or counseling advice here. There are lots of physiological reasons why your mood may be taking a downturn — some as simple as that Christmas weight gain, others as serious as thyroid cancer. Navin R. Johnson had it right: “See a doctor and get rid of it.”
Aside from the physiological, seeing a head doc and getting a diagnosis on whether you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder or some other issue that can be helped is worth a shot. But while you’re waiting through that open enrollment rush of appointments, there’s no harm in giving these suggestions a try, and they all come down to one thing:
When it comes to treating and managing the winter blahs, the number one balm with a bullet is light. I won’t go into Vitamin D production and any other possible reasons why this works. Go hit Wikipedia if you want to dig deeper. Just know that many people out there with the winter duhs claim that making sure they get enough full light makes a world of difference.
When on your quest for “light,” you will primarily be looking for sunlight. It may be hard to come by, sure. Catch it whenever it is there. Open your curtains and blinds. Go for a drive. If you happen to catch a day that isn’t too cold to stand in, actually go out in the stuff. At least go stand by a window, turn your chair to face the window, or even move your whole desk.
Close your eyes, face upward, and just soak in it. If you stare at a screen all day in your work, take this opportunity to look out at a distant horizon and scan around. It’ll do your eyes some good, too.
But ain’t it the whole point that the sun just isn’t around enough in the winter to keep us firing on all cylinders? Sure enough. So that means we have to turn our attention to our artificial light. It may be well worth it for you to get your hands on a SAD light — a lightbox that produces full-spectrum light. Models that can be quite affordable have come available in recent years.
There are even headset or visor lights you can wear that bump your light exposure on the go. One model attaches to an existing cap, so you don’t look like you’re wandering around with virtual reality goggles on.
But maybe you just need to turn your attention to the bulbs you already have in the sockets at home or on your desk. Those cheap 60-watt incandescents you grabbed at Walmart back in the summer — if they’re not already burned out — were okay for the sun-filled months when your house was filled with glorious rays. Now that the sun isn’t doing its job, you’re starting to get what you paid for out of those bulbs: diddly.
Go get yourself some “bright white” bulbs. I’m not going to wade into the debate about CFL versus LED versus incandescent here. Nor is this the place to outline the difference between watts and lumens in determining what to buy. The best thing to do is hop over to Amazon and look at some reviews. There are people over there who apparently walk through their homes and the homes of others with light meters, taking notes and shaking their heads. These people can tell you what to buy.
Replace bulbs in a few key places in your home, at first. Bulbs aren’t cheap like they used to be. Some bulbs should not be used with dimmers, so watch for that. But if you get the right bulbs, they can last far longer than you might expect, lower your cost, and still be way brighter than what you have. You may be shocked at the difference you feel from just replacing a few lightbulbs, especially near your work area.
Another place to pay attention to lighting is your bedroom. You may reason that you prefer a softer, “natural” light in your chambers. It’s not the evening mood that you need to watch out for. It’s the morning wakeup. Getting going in the morning arcs the rest of your day. Don’t wander around in a funk in that critical first half hour. Get at least one lamp in your room with a bright white bulb in it.
There are other suggestions out there. You can find them on the Google machine. Some people swear by supplements, and they will debate and suggest what you should take. Some say a better diet is key, and who can argue with that? Try it all. But the most common element that gets the most people the most benefit is improving your light.
I was shocked at the difference bright white bulbs made. Go find some that work for you. And get out in what little sun you may find.