Living in Alaska · Winter

How to Combat The Winter Blahs (Otherwise Known as SAD)

Hi everyone!  Today’s post is near and dear to my heart as an Alaskan.  In the summer, we’re the “Land of the Midnight Sun” and we literally have to stay up past midnight to watch the sun set.  And it’s up again at like 3:30 AM.  I have hiked and ran at midnight and loved every second of it!  But all of that summer sunlight comes with a price:  in the winter, we have significantly less sunlight than normal, and the sun is very low on the southern horizon.  And as we get closer and closer to the winter solstice it’s only going to get darker.

IMG_7269The view from my office at 3:00 pm

Sometimes this can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.  A lot of people in Alaska have this during the winter months, and people in northern, cloudier areas of the Lower 48 can easily get this too.  When I lived in Philly I was fine, but last year I was hit really hard with SAD – I was constantly tired and achey, would randomly take unplanned naps during the day, felt completely depressed and overwhelmed, and cried daily.  I also completely stopped enjoying running.  It was ROUGH.  Last year my doctor was able to clarify what was going on and gave me some tips to avoid it in the future.  This year, I’m doing things differently to try to keep my SAD under control, and I can definitely see a big difference!

sad

Are you feeling the effects of less sunlight and shorter days?  You might have SAD, or you might just be one of many people who has a harder time dealing with winter.  If you’re feeling like all you want is spring back, here’s my tips on how to keep those winter blahs away:

Take Vitamin D supplements.  No lie, this is the number one most affective thing I’ve tried!  Last winter my doctor prescribed me 3 times the recommended daily amount because I was so deficient.  I’m currently down to twice the recommended daily amount per my latest doctor’s appointment, and I make sure to take it every day or I can feel a difference.  Our bodies need it, especially in the winter when we can’t get enough from the sun!  I get mine at Costco and it’s worth every penny.

Use a HappyLight.  I got two of these for Christmas last year so I use one at work and one at home.  I turn mine on while I’m eating breakfast at work and leave it on for a half hour.  That’s all it takes to make a difference!  It makes me feel like it’s sunny in my office, even when the sun won’t rise for another 2 or 3 hours.

IMG_7279My HappyLight + coffee = lots of winter happiness!

Get outside in the middle of the day.  Last year I started eating my lunch in my (south facing) car so I could see the sun.  I also try to take lunchtime walks so I can get some fresh air for a bit.  It helps wake me up and give me more energy for the second half of my day.

Exercise!  Endorphins seriously make a difference in my attitude during the winter.  It can be from the gym, a class, or an outdoor workout – all of them make a huge difference in how I feel.  If I’m going through a rough patch, all I need is some cardio and I’m feeling a million times better!

IMG_7320It’s 3:00 and the sun is starting to set on my snowshoeing adventure, but I’m still having fun!

Wake up to “light”.  I’ve been thinking about trying out one of those alarm clocks that slowly lights up to wake you up, but they’re crazy expensive.  So I came up with a cheaper idea:  I bought a lamp timer and a very soft lightbulb, installed them in my bedroom lamp, and set the timer to turn the light on at 6:30 AM.  I still use my phone alarm, but the light makes a huge difference in how miserable I am when I get out of bed.  I bought mine for $15 at Target and I highly recommend it if you need a little extra help getting out of bed in the winter!

Meditate.  I love the mental benefits of meditation.  I’m still a newbie, but I can definitely see a difference in my mood on days when I meditate.  Just taking a few minutes each night to focus on my breath and my body helps me feel ready for the next day.  And I take a bit of time to thank my body for all that it did for me that day – even if all it did was resist falling asleep at random hours!

Winter can be tough, but it’s such a beautiful and fun time of year.  Knowing how to navigate the darkest part of the year will set you up for a happy winter!  I mean, how can you be miserable when it looks like this outside?

IMG_7260

Do you suffer from SAD or get the winter blahs?  How do you deal with less sunlight?  What’s your favorite thing about winter?

19 thoughts on “How to Combat The Winter Blahs (Otherwise Known as SAD)

  1. Having a window has helped tremendously. My old job I was stuck in a windowless cube. Now that I have a window, I feel like I get to see some of the sunshine. I also do the Vitamin D supplement and try my best to get out as much as possible on weekends to soak up the day light…or open every single window at home to max out the day light hours…esp. if it is snowing those big fluffy white flakes. 🙂

    1. My office doesn’t have a window, so I have to hang out in my manager’s office or the break room to get any real sunlight 😦 But it’s actually fine with me because the sun doesn’t rise until 11ish and it’s setting by 3:00 and working after the sun sets is really hard! It feels like you’re there way past 5:00 even when you have hours to go.

  2. The doctor has me on a high Vitamin D too since I was so low in 2012. The couch I sit/lay on captures the afternoon sun but I have to move away because it’s too much sometimes.

  3. I’ve heard of those lights! i can’t even imagine how blah I’d feel without sunlight…I’m from So Cal haha. But I’d imagine those lights and definitely Vitamind D supps would help a bunch

  4. Using a timer for your light is a great idea! I do have one of those clocks – I should dust it off because I am struggling getting out of bed this week.

  5. These are such great tips! Thanks for sharing! …and wow! I love that light. So cool. Also, I can’t believe you guys have “midnight sunsets”!! Those sound so crazy!! 🙂 That’s amazing. My aunt and uncle are thinking of moving to Alaska! They love it there!

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