Snowflakes and Sunshine: Beating the Winter Blues

by Cynthia Germain

At the Door County Non-Profit Group meeting (a great monthly gathering of Door non-profit organizations) last week, we had an opportunity to listen to a presentation about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues. It got me to thinking, is this more concerning for older adults?…and as a matter of fact it is. As the winter months settle in, many individuals, especially older adults, may find themselves grappling with the effects of the winter blues. The colder, darker, shorter days definitely impacts mood and well-being.

Older adults may be more susceptible to the winter blues due to limited mobility, decreased exposure to natural light, and potential social isolation. It’s crucial to recognize these challenges and take steps to address them. Here’s some suggestions:

Prioritize Physical Activity. Consider your individual capabilities and create a schedule of simple exercises like walking, stretching, or chair exercises. This can boost mood, improve circulation, and enhance overall well-being.

Embrace Natural Light. During the daylight hours, open curtains and spend time outdoors when it’s sunny and safe to do so. Also consider light therapy lamps that mimic sunlight. Here are some thoughts when choosing special lights for light therapy:

  • Look for lights that provide an intensity of 10,000 lux. Lux is the measurement of light intensity, and this level is often recommended for effective light therapy.
  • Opt for full-spectrum light that closely resembles natural sunlight.
  • Ensure that the light therapy device has UV filters to block harmful ultraviolet rays.
  • Consider the size of the light therapy lamp as well as adjustable brightness and color temperature to customize the light therapy experience.
  • Look for a light therapy lamp with a built-in timer. Most sessions typically last around 20-30 minutes, and a timer can help users manage their exposure time.
  • Before starting light therapy, especially for individuals with existing health conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. Also read reviews and seek recommendations from reputable sources.

Maintain Social Connections. Combat feelings of isolation by staying socially engaged. Schedule regular phone calls, video chats, or in-person visits with friends and family. Community activities, clubs, or classes can also provide opportunities for personal interaction.

Create a Cozy Environment. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) is a Danish and Norwegian concept that embraces a feeling of coziness, comfort, and contentment. It’s an approach that focuses on creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, relaxation, and enjoying simple pleasures and small, meaningful moments. I think we’ll spend more time on this in another blog.

Cultivate Indoor Hobbies. Pursue indoor hobbies or activities that bring joy. Whether it’s reading, crafting, cooking, or learning something new, engaging in fun and satisfying activities can lift your spirits.

Mindful Nutrition. Pay attention to what you eat, as diet can influence mood. Include a variety of fruits and vegetable in your meals. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts are said to have positive effects on mental health.

If feelings of sadness persist, consider seeking advice from your physician, a counselor, or support groups, offering guidance tailored to your needs. Winter blues can affect people of all ages, but older adults may face unique challenges. By prioritizing self-care, embracing social connections, and creating a positive living atmosphere, older individuals can make the most of the winter season.