Fall is officially upon us! As the leaves change, many of us are preparing for winter: Changing tires, harvesting our gardens, putting away lawn furniture, and digging out our cold weather gear. Now it also a great time to prepare for the common changes in mood and energy that come with Alaska's long, cold winters. Here are some tips to help fight against seasonal affective disorder, and enjoy the perks that come with winter...
1. Spend Time Outside. It can be tempting to stay indoors when the temperature dips. Try to spend time outside in the natural daylight whenever possible. Take a walk, shovel your deck, or find a fun recreating activity.
2. Brighten Up Your Life. "Happy lights" should be used in the morning, sitting 11-15 inches from the light for 20-30 minutes depending on the strength of the light (look for 10,000 lux). It is helpful to incorporate it into your already existing routine- consider eating breakfast in front of it, or bringing it into the bathroom while you prepare for your day.
3. Vitamin D Supplements. Most Alaskans are deficient in Vitamin D, which can impact mood. Dr. Mailloux recommends adults take 5,000 IU's daily throughout the winter months.
4. Healthy Eating Habits. Research shows a strong connection between gut health and neurotransmitters that impact mood. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, eggs, and nuts.
5. Stay Active. It can be difficult to move your body when it's -40 degrees outside. Consider joining a gym, learn to ski with the Nordic Ski Club, walk outside, or utilize the Big Dipper's track while watching the ice skaters!
6. Socialize. It can be tempting to isolate in the winter. Keep in touch with people you care about. Get out and see friends, family, or co-workers. Try hosting a dinner party, joining a book club, exercise class, or attend a first Friday art show at one of our local galleries.
7. Make a Guide to Happiness. You are the expert in your own happiness! What do you need to feel your best? Make a list and hang it somewhere you will see it regularly as a reminder. Some ideas may be expressing gratitude, making your bed in the morning, cooking a meal, choosing fruit, limiting television, or moving your body.
8. Seek Help. If these symptoms are impacting your ability to live a full life, consider seeking help from a counselor or medical provider.