"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me."
—Psalm 13:5-6, NIV
The gray days of winter can dampen our spirits, especially when we fail to maintain a healthy focus.
Our North Carolina winters are mild. There are seldom days when people are housebound due to inclement weather. Personally, I’m a homebody and can stay secluded in my home for a week and never develop cabin fever. Thankfully for me staying in is still a choice. I might respond differently if circumstances such as illness, tragedy, or personal loss dictated my actions.
People who suffer from depression in the winter months, a condition known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), can experience anxiety, fatigue, and weight gain. Though the causes, symptoms, and severity of SAD may vary, researchers agree that those who suffer have one thing in common—an acute sensitivity to the lack of light.
Although there are other ways to lessen the effects of SAD, I’ve listed a few below to aid in your return to happiness.
o Go outside as much as possible. Sunlight generates the production of Vitamin D, the body’s natural antidepressant. If physical circumstances limit your ability to go outdoors, sit by a window as much as possible or invest in a sun lamp equipped with special fluorescent tubes that mimic the sun’s beneficial rays.
o Exercise. Yes, it's that dreaded eight letter word, but regular exercise is a natural and healthy way to counter feelings of depression. Vigorous exercise releases a hormone called endorphins which elevate your mood and make you feel happy.
o Avoid coffee. Caffeine can cause you to feel stressed and anxious. Green tea, a natural antidepressant, is a healthy alternative. Loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, it improves brain function, fat loss, and potentially lowers the risk of cancer, Type II Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drinking a cup of green tea an hour or so before bedtime will serve as a wholesome sleep aide and relax you.
o Eat plenty of fruit and fiber. Fruit is also a natural antidepressant. Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices as they aid in the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a significant role in mood, anxiety, and happiness.
o Sing. Yes, I said—sing. A 2013 article in Time magazine stated that singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress and reduce anxiety. When we sing our brain releases endorphins and oxytocin, both hormones found to relieve depression. The additional good news is...you don’t have to be a good singer to reap the healthy benefits of singing.
Scripture substantiates the fact that singing is an excellent antidote for depression. In Psalm 42:5, David is in a mental and emotional battle to rise above his negative emotions.
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God” (MSG).
David spoke to his soul, reminded himself of his hope in God and returned to praising him.
I have a dear friend who has a unique way of measuring her level of despondency. Though times in her life may be tough, I often hear her say, “But the little bird in my heart is still singing.”
Is the little bird in your heart singing today? If not, help it out. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord and watch your spirits soar.
Now it's your turn. What is one way you counter the winter blues?
I always welcome your comments.