Coping With Winter Funk

Coping with Winter Funk

S.A.D. Light Therapy

It goes by a lot of names but the clinical one is S.A.D. (Seasonal Affect Disorder), I like to call it the “Winter Funk”. Some people love seasons, the winter, the cold weather, and snow, but not me. From my Facebook posts lately, you have seen that I get the winter blues. With the first rains and gray weather I find my motivation and energy levels plummet. I find it harder to get things done, harder to get excited about things, and the stream of exciting new ideas I usually have dries up. Its nowhere near depression but its not peak performance either.

If you have true depression, you need to seek medical help. Here are some signs of depression:

  1. Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  2. Fatigue and low energy
  3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
  4. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  5. Sleep changes – Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  6. Irritability or restlessness
  7. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  8. Eating changes – overeating or appetite loss
  9. Persistent aches or pains, headaches,  cramps, or digestive problems
  10. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  11. Thoughts of suicide

Number two above is the only one I suffer from,  its just the winter blues – aka SAD.  Here are some things that I have found help a lot to get me thru.  Some are real and some are mental tricks.

  1. Good Nutrition.  Nutrition is even more important than during the summer because I am doing less cardio. Eating bad makes me feel bad which makes it less likely I will exercise and more likely I will continue to eat bad.  Conversely, eating lots of fresh vegetables, legumes, and whole grains makes me feel good and keeps me ripped which gives positive reinforcement for continued good eating and working out.  Even though my weight workouts are not quite as intense in the winter, I am even more strict so that I keep my motivation levels up.  Don’t let the downward spril get started!
  2. Daily cardio.  Important all the time but even MORE important in winter than at any other time.  Daily exercise has been proven to improve mood and in the wintertime many of us really, really need this boost!  Get exercise *every* day.  It can be weights, cardio, or better yet, BOTH!
  3. Plan a trip. If you can, plan something halfway thru the winter that you will really look forward to and want to look your best for.  How about a January beach trip to South Florida?  Gives your workouts, nutrition, and cardio a definite goal.
  4. Keep a good outlook. Remember that after December 21st, every day gets longer and springtime is right around the corner.  After I make it to December 21st I am home free and my attitude and energy levels rebound just by realizing each subsequent day has more daylight than the previous one.   A mental trick but it works wonders for me.
  5. Take solace in small accomplishments.  Make a todo list Saturday morning and give yourself a big “atta-boy” for everything you are able to cross off no matter how small.  Progress is progress.
  6. Light therapy.  They make really expensive light therapy devices, personally I’m not convinced they work any better than my $10 setup.  I use two tungsten photo bulbs (500W each) and screw them into a socket with cord from the hardware store (about $3).  Early in the morning when I am working or late at night I turn them on for an hour or so and it feels great.
  7. Get warm.  When I lived in Munich for two years, I spent a lot of time at the indoor pool in wintertime.  The city had an awesome indoor olympic pool (U3 Olymipazentrum) where I would swim laps then lay out by the pool afterward.  If I closed my eyes, I could imagine it was summer even though there was snow on the ground outside. It did wonders for my mood.  Unfortunately, we dont have any facilities like that within 500 miles of where I live.
  8. Negative Air Ionization.  I personally have never used this but apparently it can help.


27 thoughts on “Coping With Winter Funk”

  1. Very happy you have touched upon this topic, for some years now it really is a problem which is a real party pooper, thanks for the advice, will try to do something about it in order to continue working out.

  2. Don’t forget vitamin D supplements if you’re not getting much sun in the winter! It makes me feel better even though that’s probably just a placebo effect, but still! ;)

  3. Hi I am bit of a fitness freak I love training and would consider myself in really good shape, however I have had trouble adding muscle because i struggle maintain a workout routine for lifting weights while there are few reasons such as university and work, the main reason is I have suffered from server depression for few years, do you have any tips for dealing with it or will be producing something on depression and body-building

  4. hey scoob, good tips, after a recent injury and illness, my motivation is low. Can you give us pics or links to setting up our own light therapy? I’m definitely interested in it!

  5. “Don’t let the downward spril get started!”

    So well said Scooby! What I suggest you try to do is get morning sun instead of artificial sunlight. In my house, we have many windows everywhere and it’s very bright during midday. I don’t see why you don’t like winter :( It’s one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Specially at night when the moonlight is reflecting on the snow :D In a few months, they will bring out the Christmas decorations and we will see nice red santas everywhere.

  6. Scooby, do you know that people with depression, SAD and other psychic disorders have problems first of all in the digestive system, especially the colon? Make some enemas and liver flushes, drink herb teas and you will forget about your blues.

  7. Less sun + extra clothes = not enough vitamin D is made by the body in the winter, making you feel run down.
    Vitamin D supplements are very cheap and probably give more bang-per-buck than any other supplement.

    1. Raymond, thanks, I was hoping someone would say Vitamin D .
      I recommend cod liver oil ( lemon flavor ) liquid, plus you get vitamin A at the same time. Much better to get it from a real source than pills.
      Scooby always has such great advise…don’t you think ?

  8. I get horrible SAD, and I’d like to second the Light Therapy angle. I found two great bulbs from a company called Nulight, who make energy saving light therapy bulbs (belting out about 4400 lumens.) I don’t remember them being particularly expensive, and they only use about 60w of power, so they won’t bump up your winter fuel bill (one strange side effect is that your plants won’t stop growing over the winter… which is possibly why these bulbs are quite popular in hydroponics set-ups…)

    … and I’m starting to worry this post looks like an Ad… but it isn’t! I’m a real person, I’ve posted on stuff before… honest…

  9. I love running in the cold! Consciousness-piercing air! I was considering winter spiked tires for my mountainbike! Maybe Santa can get me those. I love our winters in Michigan. My wife stays in shape on the slopes, keeping her snowboard constantly ready!

  10. Scooby may I tell you that you might have forgotten something essential..CREATIVITY and ART! It is always works whatever the season! Composing is a lot like doing workouts in many ways..Being productive is a very good way to transcend the winter time efficiently for me. Anyway, I agree with you with the light coming back longer after Dec 21st!

    1. I agree absolutely agree with the creativity and art!!! Helps people relax and eventually feel better, a lot better!!! Music and dancing help a great deal too!!! These should be #10…

  11. Here are my few tricks how to talk yourself into liking the winter.
    1. The GDP of “cold” countries is much higher than the GDP of “hot” countries.
    2. Hot temperatures usually make people lazy, espacially if they go along with high humidity, cold temperatures force people to take action.
    3. Cold temperatures prevent many deadly diseases from spreading.
    4. There are less insects (if any) in cold temperatures.
    5. In cold temperatures my computer performs better.

  12. That articlle makes me chuckle a bit. Why? Because I’m reading a book, yes the 7 habits one and while reading about 1st habit, being proactive. I learned that we humans have this amazing ability and that is we can write the program in our head. Proactive people take their weather with them, no matter if it’s sunny,rainy, snowing,etc. especially because that is way out of my circle of influence and I have no control of that whatsoever. So what am I to do, how do I respond? Well just one thing, it involves changing that line at the bottom of my face and just smile because I have no control over that at all so it cannot affect me. I train just as hard as any season.

    Remember you are the creator, you are the programmer and you decide how you respond and how it will affect you. Peace and love :)

    Anel Kukavica

  13. Scooby, I live in Calgary and in winter days are short. I sign up for regular 5k and 10k races on weekends to stay motivated. It’s tough to aim for PB’s during the winter, but the vibe on race day at the events is really motivating. You should add #9 above – team activities and team sports – use others to stay motivated through winter.

  14. The winter is awesome. I get all those in the summer. Then again I live Bakersfield,CA i have to use the term loosely but I really dislike high 90’s for 7 month out of the year. The 3 months of cool cold are the best!

Leave a Reply