We asked, you answered: How Michiganders are beating the ‘winter blues’

Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/Matt Slocum.

By Lucas Henkel

November 30, 2023

We asked ‘Gander readers how they combat seasonal depression in Michigan—here’s what you said. 

MICHIGAN—Folks who suffer from seasonal affective disorder—otherwise known as SAD—begin to feel depression-like symptoms in the fall and winter months. The days get shorter in the winter, which means Michiganders aren’t able to enjoy as much time out in the sun. These factors are thought to be linked to a chemical change in the brain that may cause symptoms of SAD, according to John Hopkins Medicine

The most common symptoms of SAD include increased daytime sleepiness, loss of interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, withdrawal from social situations and activities, changes in appetite, and feelings of guilt and hopelessness. 

If you are experiencing SAD or other depression-like symptoms, consider talking to your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that is catered to you. In the meantime, here are a few tricks our readers recommend incorporating into your daily routine to keep the winter blues at bay. 

Get moving

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Exercising regularly has been shown to ease depression and anxiety—even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes a day. Some folks on Facebook recommended hitting the gym, but there are plenty of options for folks to choose that don’t require a membership. One reader—Sally P.—said that she enjoys taking her dog on extra-long walks around her neighborhood. 

Michigan winters are also primetime for snowboarders, skiers, and snowshoers. If we have to deal with cold weather and snow for the next few months, we might as well go out and enjoy it.

WATCH: How this Michigan mom is helping her family beat the winter blues

Soak up the sun you can, or try light therapy

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Research has shown that light therapy—sometimes referred to as phototherapy—can offer relief for some folks who are SAD-stricken. Whether you’re stomping around in Michigan’s great outdoors or getting cozy inside near a window, try and get at least 15-30 minutes of sun during the day.

A few readers recommended getting a light therapy box to help combat SAD symptoms. These lights mimic natural outdoor light and appear to cause a change in brain chemistry that can elevate a person’s mood

There are plenty of light therapy boxes available online, but make sure to consult your healthcare provider and/or mental healthcare professional before purchasing one—light therapy may trigger manic episodes in Michiganders that have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

There is also research that shows that not having enough vitamin D can lead to depression-like symptoms. If you’re unable to catch any rays outside or from a light therapy lamp, consider incorporating vitamin D into your diet—it can be found in foods like fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms—or picking up a bottle of vitamin D at your local grocery store. 

Revisit indoor hobbies

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Snow days are the perfect time to get back into indoor hobbies. Multiple folks in the Michigan subreddit. revisiting media that helps them transport to a different—potentially warmer and sunnier—world. 

“I like playing Red Dead Redemption 2 every winter. It’s filled with blue skies, green foliage, birds, and other sounds of nature,” said one Reddit user. Video games are a great way to escape reality—and the cold, dreary weather that’s outside your door.

Embrace the snuggle life

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While there are plenty of ways to combat seasonal depression, there are going to be days that are harder than others. On those days, the best thing to do is to remember that all mammals—even humans—hibernate during the winter. It’s okay to just grab a blanket, get settled on the couch, and watch the winter days go by. Warmer days will come again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of Michigan’s majestic winter landscape in the meantime. 

Author

  • Lucas Henkel

    Lucas Henkel is a multimedia reporter who strives to inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The 'Gander, Lucas served as a journalist for the Lansing City Pulse.

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