The colder months can mean less sunlight, less exercise and fewer opportunities to enjoy nature. The days are shorter both north and south of the equator. This means even diehard outdoor enthusiasts are likely to get less sun and less exercise.
When you combine these factors with close quarters—especially during school holidays—people are likely to get restless, cranky, and even depressed.
Here are a few ways to change your light exposure, physical activity, physical wellness, and mood during the fall and winter.
A few additional notes on SAD lights, exercise, nutrition and meditation.
The best way to choose and use a light therapy box
SAD lights work best when they mimic exposure to natural sunlight. For this reason you want to place your SAD light about 16 to 24 inches away from your face without looking directly at the light. Choosing a light box with adjustable angles will help you get the best position.
Reading the morning paper, drinking your coffee, or catching up on your email while the light is pointedat you from above or from the side is an effective way to get 20 to 30 minutes of exposure without getting bored.
All exercise counts
Even moderate exercise a few times a week can start to make a difference in your health, including your mood. Psychologists say that a 10-minute walk may be as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to easing depression symptoms. A pedometer or activity tracker is one way to pay attention to the extra exercise you may not realize you’re getting while walking around the office, the mall or the grocery store.
Consider fish oil for your mood
The presence of Omega 3s hints at one reason a ModiMed diet may affect your mood. If you’re looking to build on this benefit you can try fish oil. Research has shown that fish oil, which contains Omega 3 fatty acids, may have a positive effect on depression. Make sure to choose a high-quality or recommended source.
Use meditation and mindfulness to find your happy place in or outdoors
One of the reasons cabin fever may get to us has to do with our thoughts. When we’re cooped up we tell ourselves “I should be outside,” “winter is terrible,” and “when will this end?”
These kinds of statements place value on one external circumstance, in this case one season, over another. On the other hand, objectively and calmly acknowledging the things that bother us helps lessen their sting. “I feel like I should be outside,” “I’m thinking negatively about winter,” and “I notice myself wishing that winter was over” are different ways of framing our experience.
Meditation is one way of discovering an openness that lies between our individual thoughts, a space within which we can see those thoughts more objectively. Meditation is a kind of mindfulness.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks about mindfully eating an orange. Rather than stuffing our faces, he suggests slowing down and noticing the experience.
In the same way, walking around the house, doing the dishes, or recognizing rare opportunities to spend time alone or together are all ways of embracing your inner cabin.