THE BLOG

Life Is Sunny: How To Combat S.A.D.

02/15/2015 10:21 EST | Updated 04/17/2015 05:59 EDT
Libertad Leal Photography via Getty Images

"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine."

~ Anthony J. D'Angelo

I get SAD.

Growing up I was a happy child, rain or shine, but recently, that is the past decade, the rainy Canadian West Coast weather has been getting to me more and more every year.

It's this feeling I know many experience who suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorders. Gloom and doom. Lethargy, a true melancholy that will come with days on end of grey on grey and damp and cold temperatures.

An incredible longing for sunshine, or anything that will break through the dark mood that can envelop us. Almost like depression, just seasonal. Oh, it sucks!

Switching from depressed and sad and just downright hopeless to feeling invincible and stupidly passionately and outrageously ecstatic and happy the second the sun breaks through the wall of clouds, well, honestly, it feels a little manic, good but not good, just a bit off, if you know what I mean.

If you are anything like me and have ever experienced SAD you know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll also wonder why on earth I keep going about how awful it feels and what the point is.

Well, firstly I want to say to all you misunderstanding and non afflicted people out there that SAD is real. It's not something we make up in our heads to stand out, to be special, or to have something to talk about at the party (you know, the party we were too depressed to go to in the first place?).

Seasonal affective disorders occur in some people in colder and damper climates with less exposure of sun. The biological effect of this climate is that our happy hormones take a hit and our serotonin production goes down. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for the happy centre in our brain. Lack of sunshine in most cases also equate to a lack of Vitamin D in our system which also is important for our mental health and moods.

So even for many non believers there is hard evidence (which is not in the scope of this article. Google IS your best friend) in form of science that shows that the darker time of the year will effect us, some more then others.

What I do want to share with you here is what you really want to know: How to beat SAD

SAD and what I did about it

Move!

I know you don't want to, especially when you feel yucky. But the best way to get endorphins going and turn your mood around is to move. Exercise!

That doesn't mean you have to run a marathon or spend an hour doing Cross-fit, unless that's what you want to do.

Do something to get your heart rate up and make you break a sweat. A crisp long walk, a short intense workout, anything will do.

My favourite is doing a few rounds of Yoga Sun Salutations right out of bed. It sets me up for being active and getting unstuck right from the moment I open my eyes in the morning.

Green Smoothies

Such an easy thing to ad to your day: a power packed green smoothie.

For many the thought of juicing and smoothie-ing is intimidating. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to go all out and switch your entire diet and lifestyle around. Just make a small commitment to yourself to have one green smoothie every day. Pack it with nutrients that will boost your mood and energy.

This is my favourite go-to when I need a quick energy pick-me-up and mood makeover:

1 cup fresh spinach

.5 cup fresh kale

1 stalk celery

Small handful of parsley

Lemon wedge

1 small apple

Piece of fresh ginger ( about the tip of your index finger size)

1-1.5 cups cold water

Stay Connected

When it's dark out, don't be a loner. Make sure you have a support network, friends you can meet, masterminds you can attend, family you can visit, meet-up groups you can meet up with.

Don't stay at home by yourself, get out and be among people, even if you just go to a yoga class.

It will do wonders for your mood!

Sunshine!

Lack of sunshine sucks on the best of days. Years ago I've exchanged regular light bulbs in my house for full spectrum light bulbs that re-create the feeling of daylight on a sunny day. This has been a huge help in my living and workspace.

Another remedy is to book your vacation around the dreary times of the year. Go somewhere sunny in November or February, the shoulder seasons in most countries, and for many the times when it's most difficult to cope with seasonal changes.

And then there is the obvious: if you catch a sunny day, go outside, soak up the rays, enjoy and be grateful!

Have something to look forward to every single day

Getting out of bed on a cold, damp, and grey day without a plan, goal or something joyous to look forward to can seem like a real chore.

My tip is to cultivate a practice of gratitude every night. On a piece of paper, or your journal, each night before you go to sleep write down three things you are grateful for that happened this day. Then write out two thing you are looking forward to for the next day. These are not goals or to do lists, I'm talking about something that makes you smile when you think about it, something that invokes a joyous feeling deep in your belly.

This doesn't have to be something big, it can be as simple as seeing a friend for coffee, or having pancakes for breakfast. Whatever makes you happy.

Make sure you read your notes from the night before right after waking up the next day. Don't get out of bed until you feel excited about the new day.

I hope these tips will give you some ideas on how you can inch your way out of seasonal disorders. It took me years to figure out what really works and to get over people telling me it's all in my head. Now that I know how to go about it I can take our Canadian rainforest weather without the discomfort I used to experience.

These days you see me get up bravely, put a big smile on my face, take my lovely green smoothie in a travel mug as I go out there and connect with friends on a rainy day.

Life is sunny!

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

  • Sun Salutation Step 1
    A simple and opening sequence that helps to awaken muscle groups and joints while also stretching out the front and back lines of the body.
  • Sun Salutation Step 2
    It can be practiced anytime during the day, but mornings are ideal.
  • Sun Salutation Step 3
    This move helps circulate blood and lymphatic fluids to help you focus and start your day.
  • Sun Salutation Step 4
    Repeat 3 to 7 times.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 1
    Stand with feet hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly and keep your arms at your sides. Loosen the fingers and hands.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 2
    Inhale deeply and quickly through the nose and swing your arms up towards the ceiling. Exhale quickly and deeply through the mouth and swing your arms down.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 3
    This breathing sequence will stimulate circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid in your body. It will improve your focus and clarity, while the breathing will leave you feeling elated and uplifted.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 4
    Find a natural rhythm, and repeat approximately 30 times.
  • Legs Up The Wall
    Lie against a wall and extend your legs up toward the ceiling. Support the back of the head and neck if necessary. If you don't have a traditional yoga blanket you can use a towel, even your jacket or a sweater.
    Hold this position for two minutes and practice controlled inhalations and exhalations.
    This posture will reverse the flow of blood away from the lower body and will stimulate circulation around the internal organs, face and brain. You will feel grounded and calm.