Updated: Sep 22, 2019
Improve Your Mental Health for Cheap: Go Outside!
The winter months are coming. For me, that usually means being cooped up in a small space with a couple of big dogs, eating creamy soups, under 10,000 blankets, and counting down the days until summer is here once again.
Like myself, in your younger years maybe you used to ski, snowmobile, winter hike, and spend all sorts of time outside. As your career began progress, you weren’t getting home till after dark, and you might have realized that the winter months really bum you out. If you spend November through March living for the end of the day when you can crawl back into your blanket-burrito, this article is for you.
I got 99 problems, and seasonal depression is definitely one of them. CMHA reports that Seasonal Affective Disorder (or in a milder form, season depression) impacts between 10-15% of Canadians every year… and no wonder! When the snow starts flying in Woodstock, it gets dark. Some days we might only see 6 hours of the sun. Why am I telling you this? I’m hoping I can convince you - clients, family, and strangers alike - to go outside… even when the weather isn’t ideal!
Sunlight has a profound impact on your mental health
Not getting enough sunlight is believed to be the primary cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder - a type of depression that typically appears during the winter months, and has troubling symptoms such as:
Feeling tired, and having difficulty getting things done
Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping much more than usual
Feeling sad, hopeless, tense, stressed, or more irritable than usual
Changes in diet and cravings (which may result in weight gain)
Decreased engagement in fun and social activities (including sex!)
Uh Oh, these things happen for me in the winter… now what?!
CMHA reccommends a few things that might be helpful, including:
Of course, you can always discuss your concerns with a skilled therapist at Woodstock Psychotherapy, however if you’re looking for self-help techniques you can use to help yourself, or to supplement therapy, here are a few ideas:
I know it’s cold. I know some days it literally makes your face hurt. Do it anyway.
While you’re at it, exercise outside!
In some cases, exercise has proven to be just as efficient in treating depression as medication - and exercise is free! You don’t need to run a marathon. Consider walking the dog, doing a walk-and-chat with a friend, or giving one of those winter sports you used to love as a child another try!
Speaking of walk-and-chat…
Being social and spending time with friends and family can also have a positive impact on mental health. If the winter weather is well and truly so cold your nose would turn blue and fall off, meet up with friends in a coffee shop with nice big windows, and soak up some sunshine while gaining the positive benefits of social interaction.
Keep the curtains open
When you’re at home and in the office, milk those precious daylight hours for all they’re worth by keeping the curtains open and allowing the sun to shine in. Chopping veggies? Chop them by the window. Reading a book? You guessed it, go to the window. Heck, maybe you’ll even feng-shui your furniture so that your comfiest chair is right beside the window! It would be worth it: research has shown that even in an employment setting, natural sunlight in the workplace can protect against depression and increase feelings of job satisfaction!
Are you going outside now? No? Okay, fine. Maybe some additional research will convince you:
According to one study, living within 3km of a green space can be a protective factor in preventing anxiety and mood disorders. (Have a park nearby? Go there!)
Research exists to support suspicion that individuals who are chronically deprived of sunlight (such as during shift work) may be more susceptible to: weight gain, weakened immune system, cancer, and of course, mental health concerns.
Harvard Medical School asserts that regular exposure to sunlight can also increase vitamin D levels (which has a host of health benefits!), improve concentration, and even support you in healing faster from illnesses and injuries!
.... Still not outside? Sheesh.
Feel free to give me a call at (226) 503-2212, or book online if you are concerned about keeping your mental health on track as the Winter-Blues approach! Our appointments will be indoors, but I promise my office has a giant window.