It’s the most wonderful time of the year… except maybe it doesn’t feel that way if you’re new to the Swedish climate, where each day gets darker and shorter during winter. I come from Mexico, which you can guess is pretty much sunny all year, so if you think the darkness and cold are making you feel a little bit blue, you are definitely not alone. There are actually some common symptoms of SAD –and no, I don’t mean sadness– I actually mean Seasonal Affective Disorder. Trust me, it’s a thing!

To be more specific on how shorter days and reduced sunlight can impact our mood, the following are some of the usual symptoms:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Sleeping more
  • Sadness
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Appetite changes, cravings, weight gain
  • Becoming less sociable
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
  • Neglecting your own needs

While experiencing SAD often makes these symptoms last for several weeks or months, the good news is that that there’s something you can do to beat the winter blues!

1. Lighten up with some light

Light therapy is one of the main ways to combat the winter blues. Special SAD lamps or light boxes can be bought online, just search for “light therapy lamp” or “ljusterapilampa” in Swedish. Sessions for as short as 30 minutes per day can have a significant impact on your mood and energy levels. For an extra dose of sunshine, try opening blinds and curtain and sitting closer to windows during the day.

2. Get moving

This next solution is easy and free: fresh air and exercise. Take advantage of the beautiful forests all around Sweden by taking a walk or a run outside, especially if there is some sunlight. On days when you don’t feel like going out or the weather isn’t that great, you can try doing a workout session at home. There are tons of videos on YouTube for yoga, kickboxing, cardio, Zumba, you name it! Aim to exercise at least 3-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes. You can start slow, but the important part is starting. You might even get a friend to join you!

3. Drink plenty of water

Captured by Melissa Cantú

Yes, this is usually a thing we keep in mind during summer, but don’t forget to get plenty of fluids when the weather turns cool, too. Drinking too little water can slow down your metabolism and make you feel tired and cause headaches. Also, cranking up the heater can dry your skin, so some extra water will certainly be appreciated by your body.

4. Keep an eye on your diet

Credits: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se

With fika sweets and Christmas treats in every corner (I’m looking at you, pepparkakor), it can be hard to keep a healthy diet. If you want to stay fit and healthy during this season, focus on vitamin-rich and seasonal meals that strengthen your immune system, such as green vegetables and legumes. Some of the typical Swedish good-mood foods include eggs, pumpkin, horseradish, wild-caught fish (salmon, herring, trout) and mushrooms.

5. Listen to music

Music is a great way to boost your mood, whether you listen to your favorite tracks or play an instrument. Studies have shown that music can stimulate the production of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin and have a positive effect on your mental health. If you’re feeling jolly, you can listen to some Christmas songs, which always cheer me up. And since we are in the land of ABBA, don’t be surprised if you end up transforming into a Dancing Queen (or King) and get those endorphins going!

That’s it! I hope these tips help you survive the beautiful, yet harsh, Swedish winter. Do you have any tips for coping with the winter? Be sure to share them on the comments section below!

/Melissa Cantú