Do the short days and cold temperatures of winter have you feeling tired, run down and maybe even a little bit irritable? Often referred to as the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects nearly 3 million people each year. For many, the symptoms of SAD, including tiredness, sadness, anxiety, depression, weight gain and difficulty concentrating start in the fall, as the temperatures begin to drop. These symptoms tend to last throughout the winter and even in to early spring.
Six Ways Seniors Can Ease Seasonal Depression
- Stay Active. While it may be tempting to keep yourself wrapped in a blanket all winter long, it’s important for seniors to stay active. So, keep it moving with light, low impact exercises such as walking, chair yoga or indoor water aerobics. Even just 30 minutes a day can have a big impact on your overall mood and wellbeing.
- Be a Social Butterfly. Staying social is beneficial for seniors all year long as it helps reduce stress and keeps the mind sharp. In the winter, spending time with family and friends can also help ease symptoms of seasonal depression.
- Start a New Hobby. Spend the winter doing something good for your mind by starting a new hobby. Creative hobbies such as quilting, knitting, painting or writing have been shown to preserve memory and reduce the risk of dementia in seniors. Not the creative type? Look for a hobby that allows you to learn something new or engages your curiosity such as reading, coin collecting or even challenging yourself to a daily crossword.
- Watch What You Eat. The winter blues may have you reaching for “comfort foods” that tend to be high in fat and sugar. Following a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins can help improve overall energy, boost your mood and help you maintain a healthy weight. Eating well can also give your immune system a boost, protecting you against colds and the flu.
- Go Outside. There are some days when it really is too cold, snowy or icy to go outside. But on the occasion the temperatures go above freezing and the roads and sidewalks are free of snow and ice, take advantage of it! That fresh air and natural light are key to keeping the winter blues away. Just be sure to always dress appropriately and wear shoes with plenty of traction when spending time outdoors in the winter.
- Talk to Your Doctor. The winter blues are very common and often temporary, but in some cases, treatment for SAD may require steps beyond those listed above. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of SAD, be sure to talk about it with your doctor. In some cases, the winter blues could be the result of a vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor may also recommend light therapy, a common treatment for seasonal depression which involves sitting in front of a light box 30 minutes a day. Additionally, they can make sure the symptoms you or your loved one are experiencing don’t go beyond a simple case of the winter blues.
Supporting Seniors Every Season at Western Home Communities
At Western Home Communities, we provide a variety of living options and activities to keep seniors active and social during the winter and throughout the year. Learn more about our vibrant community and our supportive services by contacting us today.