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Experts share their advice on how you can beat holiday sadness.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
It can be hard to face up to your blue mood when everyone else seems happy, and full of energy, but accepting your sadness can actually make you feel better. "It helps to acknowledge how you feel, and know that it's okay to feel that way," says Judith Davidson, a clinical psychologist with the Kingston Family Health Team, and Queen's University. Many different emotions are felt at this time of year—and they're all normal—so don't be hard on yourself for feeling sad.
2. Start a gratitude journal
In a notebook, or on your computer, write down three things that you feel grateful for each day. Did you enjoy a delicious omelet at breakfast? Did a co-worker compliment your outfit, or was the sun shining on your commute? Small, happy moments occur every day. Using a gratitude journal to capture these little things daily can help you spot the joys that still surround you, and lift your spirits.
3. Keep healthy habits
"The unstructured time of the holidays make it easier to over-sleep, over-eat and over-drink. These factors can negatively affect mood," says Davidson. To help alleviate low feelings, wake up at the same time each day to maintain your internal body clock and sense of wellbeing. Eat small, nutritious meals and snacks each day to keep your blood sugar, energy levels, and mood steady. And get some physical activity. "Exercise is a great stress buster and mood lifter. I recommend at least 20 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise like walking. If it's icy outside, do something indoors (yoga, stretching)," says Davidson.
4. Choose experiences over gifts
A 2009 study from San Francisco State University found that experiences made people happier than the accumulation of new possessions. The joy you feel from obtaining stuff fades, while the memories of an event—especially if it's shared with others—will stay with you. This holiday season get your loved ones to opt for experiences instead of gifts. You'll eliminate the stress associated with shopping, and gain valuable together time.
5. Embrace activities that you enjoy
Love movies? Spend a day at the cinema catching back-to-back flicks. Adore books? Head to the library. "Scheduling activities is helpful when you're feeling down," says Dr. Raymond Lam, a professor, and associate head for research in the department of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Enjoying your favourite pursuits can lighten a heavy mood.
According to a 2013 study from the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, volunteers experience increased wellbeing and less depression. It feels good to help, and the social interactions that come from volunteering can boost your mood, too. Over the holidays, lend a hand at a food bank, animal shelter, children's toy drive, or seniors' centre, and feel your seasonal blahs disperse.
7. Get into the light
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) says that 10 to 15 percent of the Canadian population experiences a mild case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with another 25 to 35 percent admitting that they feel the 'winter blues'. A lack of sunlight during winter is thought to be at fault. To remedy the situation, Dr. Lam recommends heading outdoors. "Outdoor light is usually five times as bright as indoor light. On a cloudy winter day in Vancouver, the light outside is probably between 2,000 and 3,000 lux while inside a brightly lit office it's about 500 lux."
Can't bear to be outside during a Canadian winter? Try indoor light therapy. "Sitting under a bright light device for 30 minutes a day helps with winter blahs," says Dr. Lam. These lamps can be purchased from a variety of retailers, and generally range in price from 100 to 400 hundred dollars.
8. Seek help
If you're feeling depressed, aren't enjoying activities that you usually love, or are having suicidal thoughts, seek immediate help. "Physical symptoms of clinical depression include changes in your appetite (either a reduction or an increase), your sleep (difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much), your physical movements (feeling slowed down or agitated), and lacking energy. Mental symptoms can include feelings of worthlessness, reduced concentration, indecisiveness and thoughts of death," says Davidson. Help is always available. See your doctor, call a crisis line, or visit a hospital's ER.