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How to Beat the Dark-Days Blues

How to Beat the Dark-Days Blues

If you’re one of the many people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), you probably weren’t celebrating your free “extra” hour when you made the Daylight Savings switch recently. Instead, you were probably wondering how to cope now that we’re in the days of waking up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark.

Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, plenty of us start to feel draggy and lackluster after enough gray days and early nights. So what can you do to combat the gloom?

Here are some ways to beat the dark-days blues:

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Take extra-good care of yourself.

When you don’t feel your physical best, it can be even harder to feel emotionally well. Help your mood by keeping yourself in good health. Get enough sleep at night, make sure to eat healthy, balanced meals, and find a regular exercise plan that works for you. Also keep yourself protected against seasonal illness by getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk to avoid office germs.

Keep your surroundings bright.

Make sure the rooms in your house are properly lit. If there are any dim spots, consider adding another table or floor lamp. At work, if your overall office environment is dark, get a lamp for your desk to make your personal area brighter.

Get outside whenever you can.

Whenever the weather permits, spend some time outside. Take your dogs for a walk, play a game with your kids, or just enjoy sitting in the fresh air for a little while. Even if the day is overcast, outdoor light can still make you feel better—not to mention the fact that just getting out into nature after being stuck indoors can cheer you up, too.

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Try light therapy.

There’s a reason we feel brought down by the cold months, apart from the monotony of gray skies and long evenings. Human beings absorb vitamin D through exposure to UV-B rays found in sunlight—and when we’re not getting as much sunlight every day, it can result in feelings of depression and lack of energy.

Light boxes mimic the light you’d receive from the sun, which can affect the chemicals in your brain that regulate mood. Just sitting a few feet away from a light box for half an hour each day can help improve SAD symptoms. (Check with your health care provider for specific instructions, as they often advise you do light therapy during certain periods of the day.) Light boxes can be a little pricey, but if they can improve your daily mood and energy levels over the long, dark months, it’s worth it.

Take natural supplements.

Melatonin is believed to help treat the symptoms of SAD by regulating your sleep-wake cycle, which can be disrupted when daylight hours get shorter. (Again, you may need to take melatonin at specific points of the day for it to be most effective, so check with your physician.) Vitamin D supplements can also help replenish the nutrients you’re no longer getting from sunlight.

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Exercise.

I know; it may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling blah, but regular physical activity can actually give you more energy by getting you up off the couch and moving. It’s also a great way to work out some negative emotions. Try something fun and peppy like Zumba to lift your mood, something calming like yoga to relieve stress and center your thoughts, or something like kick boxing to release pent-up anger and frustration.

Avoid alcohol.

Not only does it slow you down and make you feel more groggy, but also (as anyone who’s nursed a breakup over a bottle of wine can tell you) alcohol can just enhance your negative feelings and make you feel even worse.

See your doctor if your feelings are too much.

The symptoms of SAD are very similar to the symptoms of depression, so if your mood continues to worsen or you start to have thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, seek professional help immediately. You may need to be put on medication to help regulate your moods and might also benefit from counseling.

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If you’re in doubt whether you should seek help or not? Always opt for “yes.”

Featured photo credit: Cracked land and the lightning via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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