Beating The Winter Blues

There are some tried and true methods for dealing with this: Over 60 clinical studies have demonstrated that light therapy alleviates seasonal depression symptoms. And modifications to diet (Dr. Shah recommends the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on seafood, olive oil, whole grains, fruits and veggies over sugar and highly processed foods), exercise regimens (try to get your heart rate up 20 minutes per day), alcohol consumption (drink less) and sleep (most people need seven to nine hours) are crucial.

[>Here are our recommended light therapy lamps.]

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you should consult with a licensed medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. But if it’s novelty solutions you seek, I asked around to find some other winter rituals that might help.

They may, at least, distract you.

Sniff Out Some Herbs

Plant-based remedies are by no means new, with deep roots in traditional Chinese medicine and indigenous cultures, but herbalism has become increasingly popular. Herbal remedies are unregulated by the FDA and many lack strong support from scientific studies, but the uptick in interest among consumers has been “unbelievable,” said Adriana Ayales, the owner of Anima Mundi apothecary in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For a winter mood boost, Ms. Ayales recommends raw cacao, which she describes as “kind of like a sunshine powder.” Another big seller right now is Anima Mundi’s “Happiness Tonic,” which contains herbs like rhodiola, an “adaptogen” that was traditionally used for stress relief, and St. John’s Wort, which some limited studies have suggested may help treat mild depression (though the latter can interact with a wide variety of medications, so should be taken in consultation with a doctor).

If nothing else, get yourself some lavender. It is a stress reliever (at least, for mice) and it smells great.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

I am annoying even myself with this suggestion, but it has its merits: There’s some evidence that the practice of writing down what you’re grateful for can improve your mood. Advanced practitioners may even find positive things to say about the weather. “I kind of like the winter because it’s an excuse to not socialize, or socialize only at chili nights and holiday parties, which are really superior forms of socialization,” an optimistic friend recently told me. Interesting theory! Maybe it’s worth expanding on … in a journal entry.

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