As we prepare to switch the clocks and “fall back” this November 5, many of us may give up more than an hour of daylight. We may be giving up our good mood. Many people mark the clock change as the start of more darkness, cold weather and anxiety over holiday schedules and holiday shopping and travel. Dr. Saman Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services explains how setting the clocks back is, for many people the start the winter blues and offers tips on how not to slip into a funk.
Set a sleep regimen.
Less daylight affects our mood and the further north you go the more intense it is. Dr. Hafeez explains that around 3 million people are affected by some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s more common in women than in men and it often lingers throughout the entire winter. How to beat it? Dr. Hafeez suggests getting to bed an hour earlier and adding in some time to wind down an hour before bed. “Don’t watch the news before sleep; read a book, write in a journal or meditate. Do something that eases you into a restful state,” she says.
Change up your exercise schedule.
It’s normal for the brain to get thrown off when it gets darker earlier. Less daylight means that the motivation to get outside for that early morning jog may fade. This is normal. “It’s important that you give your brain new stimulation. Try working out after work instead of in the morning or, if possible join a work out app that brings at home exercise routines right to your phone.
Book your calendar.
The more you have to look forward to the better your mood will be. Schedule weekly dinners with family and friends. Wintertime is hibernation time so set up a family movie schedule or game nights. It’s important to have weekends booked up with fun activities to keep the mind looking forward to fun events. “Social withdrawal is common in the winter when temperatures drop. Take turns hosting dinner events and get around people,” Hafeez encourages.
Interested in learning a new skill? Use the wintertime to take seminars, attend workshops and commit to learning something new. When you engage the part of your brain responsible for learning you’re more inspired and alert. Even listening to podcasts and participating in interesting webinars on a topic you’re interested in will increase energy, Hafeez says.
Experiment with new recipes.
When the temperatures drop and we enter hibernation mode we tend to crave more comfort foods. According to Dr. Hafeez, a great way to lift our moods and stimulate our brains is through taste. Winter is a great time to explore new foods. With so many fresh food delivery companies out there you can get pre-portioned healthy food options with step-by-step prep instruction delivered to your doorstep. “I really like this idea because it engages the senses which stimulates the brain. You’re releasing positive brain chemicals triggered by excitement, adventure, task execution and enjoyment, plus you’re eating healthy.
About the doctor:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.
Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and The Doctors.