As I write this, I haven’t seen the sun in 10 days. I’m not hiding out in a bunker or living in my basement or working at Google. I’m in Chicago. We’re experiencing the longest period of unending gloom in 22 years. It’s dark all day. I can’t feel my toes. My dog won’t even go outside, he just sits by the fire reading Proust. I need a break. My dog needs a break. We need summer, even if we have to fake it.
So do you. I know you’re mired in an episode of winter blues that could make Finland look like a Sandals resort. But fear not, shivering reader, we’re here to help.
But first, we need to talk
This article is meant to be informative and entertaining, but the winter blues are no joke. In fact, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s paper, Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder In a Clinical Office Setting, Winter Depression is a subcategory of depression that “has a more clearly defined trigger of lack of light, and light is more clearly therapeutic.”
So you’re not actually crazy when you find yourself buried in the couch streaming ’80s Rom Coms. You might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, which bears the improbable acronym, S.A.D. (Also, “See A Doctor.”)
Related: “Is It the Winter Blues or Something More?”
Ways to Combat the Winter Blues
Please scroll down through these fearsome weapons with which you shall conquer winter. Yaaaaa!
Go to Mexico
Or Jamaica. Or anywhere along the equator that has a beach. You can’t have the Winter Blues if there’s no winter. Yuma, AZ is one of the sunniest places in America from December through February. It sports 84% sunny days. Tucson, El Paso, and Las Vegas are all right behind Yuma—basically, go to the southwest or the deep south. Cancun may only have about seven hours of sunshine in the winter months but it’s about 82 degrees. And I don’t know if you already knew this, but your all-inclusive resort has a swim-up bar.
Riviera Maya (the Mexican Riviera) includes a growing collection of resorts around Cancun, including the El Dorado Royale. Full disclosure, the author picked up a time-share package at El Dorado, and yes, martinis were involved. However, they have no idea I’m writing this article, and I will receive no special treatment or compensation. Still, this place rocks. Instead of hotel rooms, you stay in a cabana. Mine had a private pool connected to a lazy river connected to a pool for the 12 cabanas in my section, which had a swim-up bar that almost had enough Mezcal. I don’t remember all of the trip. I remember the incredible weather, the restaurants, and the golf cart taxis that took me everywhere. Maybe Jamaica’s more your style.
A sunny vacation can make a huge difference in your health and well-being, ut it won’t last forever. Sun lamps, on the other hand, will brighten your day with light designed to mimic the warm wavelength of sunlight.
When the sun is out, it shines down on our upturned innocent faces with 50,000 lux. Our bodies dig that kind of brightness for a gazillion reasons, but chiefly because we can see stuff, we use it to make vitamin D, and most importantly, our brains squirt out loads of serotonin, which makes us giddy with joy.
Ugh. Then winter. Now we’re getting something like negative five lux (not a scientific observation).
A sunlamp designed to combat S.A.D. pumps out 10,000 lux from a distance of about 14 inches. It tricks your body into thinking the sun is out, which makes it believe there is a reason to live, which brings your spirits up a little and gives you the kick in the pants you need to start your day.
- Miroco’s Therapy Lamp bears the rare distinction of over 2,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Just reading through the first 15 or so makes you wonder if this lamp might not only cure your winter blues but perhaps solve climate change and explain the ending of “Fleabag” while it makes you coffee.
- Circadian’s Lattice is a more expensive choice, but vital if you need to maintain the Frank Lloyd Wright decor in your office.
Eat more fish
Iceland is situated so far north that for half the year, there’s no sunlight. Yet the U.N. ranks Icelanders as the world’s fourth happiest people. Icelandic culture’s immunity to winter blues may come from how it’s designed toward happiness. They’re a highly connected, small-town society deeply rooted in literature with a fierce determination to stay happy. Or maybe it’s the fish. Studies show that fish oil contains Omega-3, which seems to play a lead role in staving off various kinds of depression (though how that works is unclear). An ongoing Harvard study is trying to figure it out, but nobody really knows how people work.
Various studies support the use of Vitamin D for Seasonal Affective Disorder as well, so keep a bottle handy for that long 12 weeks when the sun is on vacation.
If you’re suffering from S.A.D. or the winter blues, remember this: it will end soon. Winter is in the name! There’s no such thing as Spring Affective Disorder. As soon as the daffodils and tulips start pushing up through the ground, your mood will improve.© iStockphoto