If you live anywhere in America, besides the west coast, then you are probably sick of this polar vortex by now. I know I wanted it to end after the first day of snow and ice. But don’t worry, we are all feeling that way together! This winter has been especially difficult, with all the snowstorms, negative temperatures, and lack of sunshine. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), then it may be especially difficult for you. As someone with SAD, I have complied a cheat sheet of ways to entertain and distract yourself until the sun comes out once more.
- Get the D…Vitamin D
The sun gives off UVB rays which provide our bodies with Vitamin D and boost your mood. When it’s cloudy, snowy or grey, it is hard to get that necessary natural sunlight and our bodies can become Vitamin D deficient – frequently linked to depression and immune deficiency. During these cold winter months, your daily dose of D needs to come from a source other than your regular hottie – the sun. If starting your day with a cod liver oil tablet isn’t your cup of tea, there is always the traditional method of acquiring nutrients -eating. Some foods that will jumpstart your Vitamin D intake are fortified soy products such as tofu and soy milk, fatty cuts of fish, mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk or yogurt, spinach or fortified oatmeal. For women younger than 51 (and older than breast feeding age) the recommended dose of D is around 1,000 milligrams a day. If you don’t think you can choke down 1,000 mg a day from your diet, another alternative method is light therapy. The lamps simulate actual sunlight and can help relieve your SAD. No matter which way you choose, get the D in you…you’ll be happy you did.
I know it’s a drag to have to schlep yourself all the way to the gym in this weather, but it will be worth it, I promise. It forces you to be around other people so you won’t be sitting in your apartment all day alone and exercise does release endorphins in your body which can reduce stress, ward off anxiety or depression, improve sleep and boost self esteem. If snowpacalypse is making it impossible to hit the gym, working out at home has gotten to be a viable option for even the biggest gym rats. Pinterest has become a one stop shop for finding daily fitness challenges, inspiration and exercises you can do at home. Scroll through and see what speaks to you – but remember to put the phone down and actually exercise. If an informal sweat is all you are after, pop in a cardio DVD, hula-hoop, do crunches, dance around your bedroom for an hour listening to Brooke Candy – just get your body moving and your blood flowing. The snow has certainly become an obstacle for our day to day motions, but what if we embraced the winter weather for all of the athletics it has to offer. Coming right off of the winter Olympics, I am inspired by the incredible feats of athleticism displayed right there in the snow. Maybe it is time to take up show shoeing, curling, ice skating or cross country skiing. It is amazing how many calories these icy activities burn while offering the chance to have a little fun. Cold weather: if you can’t erase it, embrace it.
3. Make a Playlist
If you are experiencing the winter blues, put together a playlist of songs that make you happy, songs that you can sing along to, songs that make you want to dance, or songs with an uplifting message. You can listen to it in the car, riding the train, on the bus, walking down the street, or blast it through your apartment. Some of my favorites right now include “Chocolate” by 1975, Alt J’s “Tessellate,” and “Life is Better With You” by Michael Franti and Spearhead.
4. Buy a Potted Plant
“Gardening,” you gasp. “It is winter.” I know, it is winter but that is no excuse to wrap your green thumb under a mitten for the next few months. Keeping a potted plant or a small windowsill garden may be the perfect way to get your Spring on, even in February. Home improvement stores often have great discounted plants in the colder months since it is harder to keep them looking snazzy enough for retail. This is the ideal time to snatch a few $1 plants off of the sale rack, and when you nurse your little greenling back to health you will feel like much more than $1. Another way to get your Thumbelina on is to create an herb garden for your kitchen. Herbs are very resilient and require very little maintenance but will make all of your recipes much better. Fresh food and an excuse to get duuurty. Count me in. Thumb not green? Plant murderer? Look no further than the wonders of the air plant. I love air plants and their low maintenance “dunk in water once a week” routine really arouses my inner Mother Earth. Hard to kill, easy to feed and grow without dirt or a pot? Plant trifecta.
They can even live in an ornament!
As someone who thoroughly enjoys curling up in a lump under all my blankets and watching Netflix when it is disgusting outside, I can confirm that it provides an escape from internal feelings. Get recommendations from your friends and family or from lists online. I would highly recommend the documentary Salinger, John Mulaney’s standup special New In Town, and my absolute favorite movie, Submarine. Some series that are trending now: Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
6. Learn a New Skill
If you don’t want to venture outside or feel like you can’t get out of bed, you can learn how to do something new. I few useful skills I’ve dedicated some couch time to are knitting, baking fun recipes off Pinterest, try your hand at learning a new language. Youtube also offers hair and makeup tutorials that could be practiced. Spending your time productively will be interesting and will make this funky weather pass a lot quicker. Plus if you’re asked what you spend your time doing you can whip out a cool answer instead of just, “Nothing.”
7. Talk To Someone
When your SAD is in full swing, it can be really easy to isolate yourself from everyone you know. Sleeping suddenly seems to be the most important thing that you have going on. The thought of even having to answer your phone can be exhausting and at the same time your SAD feelings can make you feel really lonely. That is why it is important to stay in your loop. Call your mom and tell her about your day, email your Grandpa and ask him what he has been doing, Skype your sister for an hour, Facebook your cousin and hear about his travels, invite a friend over for dinner. Talking to people that you love is a good way to boost your mood and stay positive. Plus you can always tell them how you are feeling and receive some love and support from their end.
The important thing to remember is that this weather will not last forever. Soon you will be able to go for walks in the sun once more and begin complaining about the heat.
*This piece was co-written by Noelle Dommasch