(BPT) – Shorter days, colder weather, icy roads, and less sunshine – winter can be a serious downer. It’s not just in your head, either; 14 percent of Americans suffer from the winter blues and 6 percent have the more serious form of doldrums known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to research published in the journal Psychiatry.
The blues may make you cut back on social interaction, sleep more and engage in comfort eating – all actions that can make your depression worse. Instead, try busting winter blues by engaging with others and taking part in activities that exercise and soothe all five senses.
Scent as a pick-me-up
Apple pie, a holiday meal, vanilla or roses – almost everyone has at least one scent they associate with comfort and positive feelings. While humans’ sense of smell isn’t nearly as acute as that of other mammals, research suggests that smell is directly tied to mood. In fact, at least one study published in the online journal Chemosensory Perception links poor olfactory function to mental disorders. And the ability of scent to positively influence mood is well documented.
Using scent to combat winter blues can be as simple as adding mineral salts to your bathwater. You can also use essential oils to cheer the atmosphere in your home or office. Aromatherapy expert Aura Cacia offers a recipe for a bright, uplifting citrus air freshener you can easily make at home using their essential oils. Citrus is thought to dispel feelings of lethargy, and the clove and cinnamon are both stimulating and comforting.
Citrus and Spice Aromatherapy Air Freshener
32 ounces of water
1/2 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil
1/2 teaspoon clove bud essential oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon essential oil
Mix oils and water in a 32-ounce mister bottle. Shake well and use to mist the air throughout your home. For more winter time oil information, visit www.auracacia.com.
Let the sun shine in
A lack of natural light during winter is closely associated with depression and SAD. Get outdoors and in the sun as much as possible. When inside, open curtains and blinds to admit sunlight and sit next to windows as much as possible. If you live in an area that just doesn’t get much sunshine during the winter, or have an office without windows, consider using full-spectrum lights that mimic natural light.
Surround yourself with colors and visuals that are uplifting. For example, if you love the tropics but a winter vacation isn’t in the cards, set the screensaver on your PC or your smartphone’s home screen to a tropical scene. Put a brightly colored comforter or quilt on your bed. Treat yourself to fresh flowers for your home or office – they’ll have the added bonus of stimulating your sense of smell as well.
The link between music and mood is well known. Surround yourself with uplifting sounds. While playing upbeat, summer-themed music is a good tactic, don’t overlook other sources of positive sound.
Schedule a weekly phone chat with your BFF, rather than just texting. Consider using an alarm clock that wakes you with natural sounds, such as birds chirping, a babbling stream, or even a thunderstorm. Try to fit in time each day to just enjoy silence. If your home or office is always an active place, break out the noise-cancelling headphones you use on a plane to give yourself some peace and quiet.
A taste for happiness
Over-eating and weight gain are commonly associated with SAD and milder winter blues. While over-indulging will only make you feel worse in the long run, it is possible to use taste to boost your mood without packing on the pounds.
Researchers have found evidence that chemicals in certain foods, such as chocolate, some berries and teas, have a positive impact on mood, according to a report presented to the American Chemical Society. Fortunately, you don’t need to increase your intake of chocolate to feel better about winter. Simply add some of these flavors to foods you already eat. Toss a handful of blueberries into your morning oatmeal, snack on trail mix that includes dried berries and some chocolate, and substitute tea for your afternoon coffee.
Scientists believe the sense of touch is the first to develop in the womb, and it’s one of our most powerful, comforting senses. You can nourish your sense of touch in many ways, from choosing clothing that is soft, breathable and comfortable to spending quiet time stroking your pet’s fur.
Nourishing your sense of touch is also a great way to indulge in affirming human contact. Indulging in regular hugs with those you love will be a mood-booster for both of you.