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How To Feel Happy In Winter: Surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder When You Cannot Get Out In A Garden

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Shawna Coronado Running

Winter is long and cold here in the Northern states. It is at least 6 months of no gardening whatsoever. Surviving that is difficult for some and especially for me. I suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). In January and February I find myself depressed, frustrated, and well… sad. Without nature as my companion, I feel like everything I do is a tremendous chore. The good news is there are ways to feel happy and fight the S.A.D. symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, S.A.D. can be quite devastating for some. If it is severe, you should definitely seek help with a doctor and not brush it off as a case of the winter blues. Professional treatments for S.A.D. can involve light therapy, psychotherapy, and prescription medications.

Gardening, sunlight, physical exercise, and the outdoors are like emotional buoys for me – it keeps me feeling cheerful. To lift my mood up when I am feeling the S.A.D. symptoms, I follow a few simple rules —


#1 – Exercise – Get as much exercise as possible. Even if it is cold. Even if it is in the dead of winter. This year I am learning how to run utilizing the Couch-To-5K program. Above you see me running at 6 AM at a local high school. They offer a free open indoor track every morning at that time.  I bring my android phone and it helps coach me through the runs. I love it!

#2 – Light – Make the area you spend the most time in every day sunnier and brighter. I have a Verilux daylight lamp for those particularly cloudy days and also place my office in the corner of my bedroom that has full on south facing windows. These windows have no curtains during the daytime and allow the south sun to hit me directly on the face. It helps. A LOT.

#3 – Nature – Go outside as often as you can so you get exposure to the sky and clouds. Take walks. Sit outside in the sunshine. Go to an arboretum and look at trees. I’m not kidding. Typically, I park my car at the back of the parking lot so I can walk, no matter how cold it is, a long distance with a view of the sky no matter if the day is sunny or gray.

Get out there in nature and help make yourself happy. You can feel better in the cold winter months whether you have the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Remember that you are the only one responsible for your own happiness and it can make a difference between living happily and just living during the off-garden season.

Northern states

Northern States

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