Manhattan Holistic Chamber of Commerce President Michele Risa

5 Ways to Avoid the “SAD Winter Blues”

Seasonal Affective Disorder a.k.a. SAD or “winter blues” is a very common problem for women and people with a history of depression.

According to research, 6% of the US, primarily in northern climates are affected by SAD and another 14% suffer from “winter blues” a lesser form.

Symptoms include:sad-woman

  • slowing down
  • having a hard time waking up in the morning
  • decreased energy levels
  • eating more than usual which can lead to weight gain
  • sleeping more
  • less able to concentrate
  • withdrawing from friends and family causing work and relationships to suffer

But why suffer?  Here are 5 easy holistic solutions to help reduce SAD or “winter blues” while at the same time enhance your actual health.  (Note: please speak with your doctor to confirm what is best for you.)

Holistic Solutions:

    1. Watch your nutrition– especially your intake of iron, omega-3 fats and vitamin D. Though our bodies produce Vitamin D in response to sunlight, during the winter months we can experience a deficiency in Vitamin D as we spend less time outdoors. So ask your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.  Also, if you shiver your way through winter, this could be a symptom of anemia or low iron.  So increase your intake of leafy greens and again check your iron levels at your next doctor’s visit.  Last but not least, improve your mental health by upping the ante of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon.
    2. Exercise– It’s not only essential for physical health but also mental health.  When we aren’t in motion, our minds can automatically start to shut down and enter a mode of depression.  Many doctors regard exercise as being a highly effective antidepressant.  Below are 4 exercises you can do right NOW at your desk.
      a) “V” for Victory: To raise your energy level. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor.  Raise your arms up into a “V” shape with fists tight and thumbs extended out.  Take short equal in/out breaths through your nose (which sounds like a train going up a mountain).  Make sure the amount of air taken in equals the amount exhaled so you increase your oxygen intake while maintain homeostasis.  Continue for 30 seconds; build up to 1 minute.  At end, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and feel your body.
      b) Chop Wood: To increase circulation. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor.  Interlace your fingers, straighten your arms in front.  As inhale, raise your arms overhead, passing your ears, and as exhale, lower your arms to waist height.  Continue for 1 minute; build up to 3 minutes. At end, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and feel your body.
      c) Brain Balance: To Be more focused. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor.  Hands in prayer pose resting on your sternum.  Inhale.  As exhale, straighten your arms out in front with palms facing forward and fingers pointing up. As inhale, bring arms out to sides, keeping each straight and fingers pointing up.  As exhale, return arms out front.  As inhale, return to prayer pose on your sternum.  Continue for 1 minute; build up to 3 minutes. At end, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and feel your body.
      d) Nerves of Steel: To Better Handle Challenges. Sit with a straight spine, feet flat on the floor. Arms straight out to the sides, palms facing down. As roll arms backwards in small circles, repeat the short, equal in/out breath as in “A” above.  Continue for 30 seconds; build up to 1 minute. At end, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and feel your body.
    3. Surround yourself with house plants- For 100s of years people have been bringing evergreen trees, holly, and wreaths into their homes during the greyest parts of the year. Ever wonder why?  It makes us feel better! So today, take one step against those “winter blues” and get some bright green, colorful plants.  It will make a bigger difference than you may think.
    4. Light therapy box– The same instinct that leads us to surround ourselves with green plants in winter also makes us crave light which is why almost all winter holidays involve lights or candles.  Can’t get a light box? Then schedule a walk around the block midday on the sunny side of the street.  That will give you 2 benefits- light and exercise- rolled into one.
    5. Aromatherapy baths– And while we’re on a “roll,” here are another two benefits rolled into one! This combines the affects of aromatherapy or fragrance with hydrotherapy or water.  Interestingly, a lot of the same scents we associate with the holidays have powerful antidepressant properties: peppermint, frankincense, and rosemary.  The University of Maryland Medical Center also includes oils of rose, orange, bergamot, lavender and sandalwood.

So have a happier holiday season ALL WINTER with natural holistic remedies. Again, consult your doctor and confirm what’s best for you.

You just might say goodbye to those “winter blues” and hello to HO HO HO!

BTW: Have questions or want more specific suggestions tailored to your needs? Just email me at  I’m happy to make the first step easier so you can be on your way.

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