COLUMN: Beating the winter blahs

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Like a lot of people, winter often finds me in a bit of a funk. I don’t get depressed in the clinical sense but find I’m grumpy(ier), more anxious and less apt to be active. I’m working to shed pounds and the occasional walks – bike rides on nice days – have and will help.

I have read a good deal about what some medical professionals call seasonable affective disorder, another term for the sluggish, mildly blue feelings some of us experience in the middle of winter. I read recently where scientists have proven that many people’s moods really do head south when the weather turns cold. Perhaps that’s a reason to head to warmer parts of the globe this time of the year. I’d like nothing better to spend a few weeks in Florida or South America, but that’s not an option.

There are a few steps we can take to brighten our moods during winter. Exercise helps but many people say it’s the lack of light that actually affects our moods. According to Dr. Morton Harmatz at the University of Massachusetts, light seems to act as a natural antidepressant. Some companies make light boxes and other gadgets that emit full-spectrum light and I’ve seen specialized bulbs for sale that supposedly do the same.

The extra light is supposed to compensate for the reduced hours of sun.

With daylight hours still short, it’s easy to avoid much direct contact with the sun. Lots of us get up in the dark, head off to work in places that offer little or no natural light and head home when it’s close to or already fully dark.

I’m lucky to have a window right next to my desk, giving me a good dose of sunlight during the day. I try to keep the blinds adjusted so the morning sun doesn’t blind me or co-workers but still offers more light than the fluorescent tubes in the light fixtures above my head.

Instead of spending money on a light machine, I think a simpler step would be to just spend more time outside. Take a lunchtime walk, hike a trail some sunny weekend or simply take a Sunday daytime drive.

A little online research turned up other suggestions, some of them common-sense and others wacky.

The color orange is supposed to cheer our personalities. There’s very little in my wardrobe that is orange so perhaps I’ll ask co-workers to wear orange. Not likely.

Some suggest Vitamin D supplements. Radiation from the sun is turned to Vitamin D on our skin. The decreased daylight hours in winters can lead to deficiencies.

Instead of popping Vitamin D pills, a good choice might be take a multivitamin. Another diet supplement is to combat the winter blahs with fatty acids, such as fish oil.

Other than Lent, I don’t eat a lot of fish during the year. I don’t put a lot of stock in supplements and would rather try to eat halfway healthy food. That’s not hard. Keeping the portions healthy is where I get tripped up.

Perhaps the best way to beat the winter blues is to have more fun this winter. Invite a few friends over for cards or a movie. Share a beer or two or a glass of wine.

Make a day trip. Walk a trail. Go hunting, birdwatching or pick up litter from a county road or highway.

Finally, laugh more this winter.

With a little luck, the upcoming weeks will be mild and sunny and we’ll be cutting grass and donning short-sleeves in just a few short months. For me, that’s enough to beat back any winter blahs.

Conservation District Dinner Jan. 22

Anyone looking for a good meal and an informative discussion of the weather should make their reservations by Friday for the 65th annual meeting of the Perry County Soil and Water Conservation District. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 and includes dinner and a talk by Joe Sullivan, a meteorology with the U.S. national Weather Service. He will speak about our recent climate history and climate change.

Tickets are only $5 and $3 for kids 12 and younger. Call 547-4686 to make reservations.