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If you feel depressed during the winter months, try these 4 things.

Seasonal depression is real. Here's how to deal with it.

If you feel depressed during the winter months, try these 4 things.

Have you ever noticed that winter-themed films tend to involve frolicking in the snow, ice-skating, and kissing your one true love while the snow falls in your hair?


Don't these people know about stretchy pants and Netflix? Photo via Robbie Dale/Flickr.

For a lot of us, winter actually looks more like leaving work after the sun has already set.

It looks like canceling plans because it’s easier to stay in bed, and trying to remember a time when the sky was any color but gray.

In fact, almost everyone I know gets the “winter blues” to some degree — feeling exhausted, sad, and checked out during the winter months. But for some people, those feelings can manifest into something even more extreme: an illness called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Yay. Winter. Photo via Lucia Sánchez Donato/Flickr.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression that comes and goes based on the seasons.” For most people who have experienced this mood disorder, SAD starts in the fall and begins to let up in early spring.

Medical professionals think that reduced exposure to sunlight (basically, no vitamin D) is a major factor behind seasonal depression. When the sun is only out for a couple hours a day, your body and brain regulate emotions differently.

The good news is that some of the best ways to deal with the winter blues include tiny lifestyle changes that don't involve a prescription pad at all.

Here are four ways to kick SAD's ass and reclaim your winter.

1. Start using a light therapy box.

I started using this sun lamp for 30 to 45 minutes a day during my senior year in college, and it changed everything. The lamp blasts VERY bright light at your face until your body is convinced that it's not hibernating through the winter. It can be a little hard to adjust to the habit, but it has been proven to work fast.

Seriously, it works! Photo by me.

2. Sweat out the SAD.

Regular exercise is a cornerstone of physical health, but it can also make a huge difference with mental health, too. Getting physical encourages your brain to release all those good chemicals that elevate your mood.

3. Think positive.

This tip may sound annoying ("just be happier!!!"), but hear me out. In northern Norway, where some towns don't see the sun for months, seasonal depression is very rare — partly because Norwegians have different expectations for winter.

Instead of getting down in the dumps, they mindfully focus on the color, the coziness, and the beauty of those dark, cold months. So when winter's got you down, take a page out of their book: light candles, cook stews, drink hot chocolate, and get out your warmest blankets. A small shift in perspective could lead to huge results.

Doesn't seem so bad, does it? Photo from Samet Kilic/Flickr.

4. Make sure you have enough vitamin D.

According to Psychology Today, tons of studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. A vitamin D supplement could help your body deal with winter's emotional lows.

These tips probably won't "cure" your seasonal sadness — only the Earth's slow rotation around the sun can do that.

But remember, you're not alone. Lots of us experience the winter blues, and it does get better.

True

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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