Ah, autumn. A beautiful time of year--crisp air, fresh apples, rich winter squashes, spectacular scenery. Along with the promise of bitter cold weather, snow, fewer lovely local vegetables, and less daylight. What is a person to do to survive the coming winter?
Some, of course are the lucky ones who are biologically unaffected by cold, shorter days, and less sunlight. Others love winter sports enough to be thrilled by the coming snows. Many, however, have to work to maintain a good mood and an active life as winter's chill pushes them into hibernation.
While calling your winter blues "SAD" (season affective disorder) and writing you a prescription is one way to attempt to alleviate your impending depressed mood, if we study biology, we can find others. After all, you are human and can make choices a bear cannot, so even though your body may be trying to get a long winter's nap, if you give it warmth and light and fresh foods and activity, you can stay happy and fit all year long.
Problem: Less sunlight--help yourself--use daylight-imitating lights in your home. Turn them on when you need to waken and keep them on until after your last meal of the day. Do not sleep more--use light and fresh foods to keep yourself in a more active mode.
Problem: Cold temperatures--help yourself--stay warm. Surrender to reality and bundle up. Wear those unfashionable hats and mittens. Keep your home comfortable, not freezing to save energy.
Problem: Warm, heavy foods help us feel better when it is cold--help yourself--Avoid eating the typical winter high-starch diet--maintain your good summer eating habits (or start now and create new habits) with leafy greens and lots of fresh foods now so abundant in stores even in the off season.
Problem: Less fun things to do outdoors--help yourself--find a new hobby or sport that involves physical movement, whether indoors or outdoors--take up yoga or rock climbing or dancing or cross-country skiing.
Fight back! Do not let winter blues make you into a hibernating bear.
In addition to working on your biology, work on your psychology. Avoid telling yourself and everyone around you how much you hate winter/snow/slush, etc. Do remind yourself how cozy a warm fire can be. Enjoy your comfy sweaters. Play in the snow while you are digging out your car for the 57th time. See more movies, and explore new indoor activities. Get outside on sunny days, even just to stroll around and sungaze. Enjoy a cool winter's night under a full moon. Trite as it sounds, keeping a positive attitude will make the winter seem less harsh and your life more joyous.
Certainly, this will not make winter perfect for sunlight-driven beings, but you can help yourself enjoy it more and feel better with a few good choices.