As winter settles over Summit County, daylight shrinks and the sun is now setting to set closer to 4:30 p.m. Along with the lack of sunshine and cold temperatures, people may experience negative emotions that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning. However, there are ways to combat that sadness and keep momentum up during this time of year.
Therapist Lynn Meyer, of Lynn Meyer Counseling in Frisco, said many folks seek appointments with her in winter with symptoms like sadness, depression and lethargy.
Meyer said she starts out by normalizing the phenomenon. “With less daylight, longer nights (and) colder weather, it’s no doubt that wintertime makes it difficult for us to feel good,” Meyer said.
Meyer explained that lack of sunlight during winter affects the body’s circadian rhythm, the “natural internal clock” she said regulates mood, energy, sleep patterns and appetite. This shift can impact mental health, Meyer added.
For example, due to increased darkness, folks may want to stay in bed longer. However, Meyer said the body functions best when it’s set on a “normal routine,” which means increased time in bed can offset bedtime and sleep. People may also overeat, increase screen time or lose interest in activities they enjoy during the winter, Meyer said. She added that can lead to diminished mood, increased fatigue and distraction.
While these all lead to feelings of unhappiness or depression, Meyer said there are plenty of ways to keep things moving.
“Being active during times of sunshine is incredibly important,” Meyer said. “If you can get out even for like an hour, if you could take a walk during your lunchtime, that’s going to be really beneficial.”
Meyer added that sunlight “is key” to regulating circadian rhythm and if prioritized, can help folks feel more energized as well as ease symptoms of anxiety, sadness and depression.
“I’d rather stay snuggled and cozy,” Meyer laughed. “But again, I know the benefits of those feel good chemicals that are released during exercise that really can help maintain my mental health and ease that anxiety that I might be experiencing during these darker months.”
Meyer recommended snowboarding and skiing as a way to catch some sun.
Renee Rogers, the fitness and wellness coordinator for the Silverthorne Recreation Center, said physical activity has even more benefits.
“Even just little 10 minute bursts of physical activity can help change of mood,” Rogers said. “Taking stairs, stretching, doing some pushups, things like that, just to kind of get the blood flowing.”
Rogers added that the recreation center offers plenty of opportunities for working out indoors if it’s too cold outside. There are group fitness classes, personal trainers, a pool and much more.
“We definitely ramped up more classes this time of year compared to the summer because of these reasons,” Rogers said. “It’s harder to get out. It’s icy or dangerous to get out for those outside workouts.”
Information on classes or amenities at the Silverthorne Recreation Center can be found at Silverthorne.org.
Meyer explained that movement helps to release “happy chemical hormones,” which play a role in the motivation and mood regulation Rogers said exercise helps with. Even if people don’t have enough energy or time to get moving, both Rogers and Meyer said activities that keep the mind at work are better than time spent in front of a screen. Knitting, cooking, organizing the house and puzzles were examples the two gave.
“Sometimes after work it’s dark, you’re tired, you want to just sit down and not do much,” Rogers said. “Different things that are kind of active but not strenuous kind of keeps your mind off of sitting in front of a TV and snacking.”
Meyer added that including friends or family in those activities can add engagement and connectedness.
“The idea of cooking dinner, having game nights, playing cards or really trying to sort of engage with the people that are around you can all be really helpful by staying off that screen so much,” Meyer said.
Rogers added that drinking plenty of water, dressing for success and allowing for small treats occasionally, like a new water bottle, are little things that she said help get her through the winter.
Community programming is another way for some to get out of the house and increase engagement. Building Hope Summit County Program Writer Alyse Piburn encouraged people to participate with the nonprofit’s connective events.
The programming is free and offered to a wide range of ages. At least once each week, the nonprofit hosts events like yoga, meditation or art classes. Piburn said those interested can find a calendar of events and register online at BuildingHopeSummit.org.
“It’s a safe space for people to kind of open up about mental health and what they’re dealing with and, you know, maybe meet a new friend,” Piburn said.
Therapy is also an option for people who are struggling. If finances are a concern, Building Hope offers a scholarship program that can provide partial or full coverage for up to 12 sessions for a couple, individual or family who qualifies. An application process is required through the Building Hope website. Meyer’s information can be found there, as she accepts the Building Hope scholarship at her practice.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)