It’s ironic that January and February are some of the busiest months of the year for gyms, considering that winter makes people sluggish. Short days and long, dark nights make you drowsy early. Oppressive cold can make you question leaving your dwelling.
Seasonal affective disorder is a generalized term to describe the impact of winter weather on your psyche. The symptoms are basic: feeling tired, unmotivated, gaining weight, and feeling less joy from the things you like to do.
These symptoms sound a lot like depression, which is why seasonal affective disorder is also known as seasonal depression. As the winter months give way to warmer, longer spring days, the symptoms go away.
The problem is that you don’t want to waste your winter being sad and sluggish. So, what can you do? Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Workouts lift your spirits and keep your body healthy, fighting the major symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Your biggest hurdle will be convincing yourself to go to the gym. If you find that you’re lacking motivation, consider buying a day lamp or similar product to mimic sunlight. Shine it on yourself for 30 minutes to an hour each day. Doing so can give you more energy and improve sleep.
Another option is to go to a workout class. One study in Japanese adults found that working out with a group made people with seasonal affective disorder feel better. Once you start going to the gym, your symptoms should subside and your energy levels should come back to normal.When all else fails, try drinking some caffeine to give you an energy boost.
An interesting study found that different cultures have ways to cope with the winter months. Northern Norwegians, the study found, view winter as a necessary part of the yearly cycle. It reminds them that they’re part of nature. When they feel symptoms similar to seasonal affective disorder, they view them in a more positive manner, rather than something that’s detrimental.
This is a very optimistic view, but they have a point. Viewing your symptoms as a cause of nature, rather than a problem inherent in your mind and body, gives you more power. Recognize that there’s nothing wrong with feeling sleepy or lazy during winter; it’s perfectly normal. Then work on ways to motivate yourself to get to the gym. You’ll be glad you did!