Living with mental illness can be lonely and isolating. The voice in your head constantly putting you down with negative thoughts. That is why its important for people with depression to connect with others who experience the same. This is especially true during winter when depression is even worse for many.
Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD) is most common during the winter months. The condition is a response to the reduced amount of sunlight many experience in winter.
For me, it was very difficult living with depression for years, but support from family and close friends along with strong methods of coping has made my road to recovery easier. Below are some of the ways that help me overcome my battle with depression during the winter months when my depression symptoms are the most acute.
Giving back to the community can boost your mood and satisfaction. There are many ways to volunteer in the community, such as helping at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, donating gently used clothes, toys or electronics or finding other ways to support someone you know like an elderly neighbor. You can find volunteer opportunities available on your local government website or through local community organizations.
Walk in Nature
On a sunny, cold day, bundle up with a thick jacket, sweater and comfortable shoes and go for a nature walk. Embrace the small things around you like the birds chirping, the wind blowing through your hair and the leaves crunching under your feet. Take some time to absorb the warm sunlight whenever possible while walking or biking. Take frequent deep breaths and enjoy the moment you have with nature.
If the weather is too bad to go outside, reading is a great indoor activity to feel better. Reading books stimulates your thinking, enables you to think creatively, improves concentration, and increases vocabulary and knowledge. A few self-help books or personal development books I recommend reading are Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. These are some of my all-time favorite books to read to boost my mood when going through depression.
Be Kind to Yourself
Self-care and self-love are always important to keep in mind when faced with depression. Be easy on yourself and try to let go of small things that stress you out or bring you down. Do something nice for yourself whether it’s a nice warm bath, facials, manicure/pedicure, exercise or even just taking a nap. Some of the ways I show self-compassion are by reading my favorite book, engaging in some of my hobbies, such as crochet or nail art, and also going for a walk around the neighborhood.
Journaling has been my all-time best way to cope. You can journal as much or as little as you want. Journaling is a way to release your thoughts on to the paper without judgment. If you are having a stressful day at work or school, it’s an easy way to vent your feelings. Journaling has certainly helped me boost my sense of well-being and be more mindful of my thoughts and feelings.
Stay Healthy and Hydrated
As always, being healthy is very important throughout the year. Make sure you try to include the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Staying hydrated during the cold months can be challenging, but your body needs water to function properly so staying hydrated is crucially important.
Join A Peer Support Group
A big part of depression is isolation. It is important to surround yourself with the people who help you feel connected. In college, I was a member of a peer support group called the Happiness Project. Peer support groups are helpful because you can share ideas and emotions with people in your age group without any judgment. It is also an easy way to relate to one another and help each other out.
Make a Happy Jar
The Happy Jar iss filled with post-it notes of happy moments that you have each day. When I was battling depression and anxiety, in order to cope and overcome it, I created a happy jar, which significantly helped my mood and outlook on life. I then implemented it with my peer support group. The purpose was to remind members of the group of their happy moments and thoughts when they were going through difficult times. Since gratitude is one of the best ways to fight depression, I hoped this would help remind them to appreciate the happy moments in life.
Jannani Krishnan is a mental health advocate and Life Science Research Professional at Stanford University School of Medicine. She holds a B.S in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior from the University of California, Davis. Jannani has several certifications including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Question Persuade Refer (QPR) and Mental Health First Aid. Jannani also has a personal blog page where she writes about premed advice/experience, medical school journey, and personal hobbies. Blog: www.jannanikrishnan.wordpress.com
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