Not SAD

Sunny winter day, 2011

Sunny winter day, 2011

I never thought I was affected much by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I have always said I liked the Great Indoors, and the coziness of spending the winter with a book and a warm drink in hand. I also know I’m not Vitamin D deficient because all of our milk and yogurt is heavily fortified.

Yet this January I have felt the best I’ve ever felt at this time of year, and I think it’s down to two causes: activity level, and being outdoors.

I decided to get back into my fitness routine of workouts 5 days a ย week starting on January 6. In the 4 full weeks ending Jan 31, I will have worked out at home 16 of the 20 days I planned to (if ย I fail to work out from Wed to Fri this week you can come to my house and berate me, LOL!) So that makes me feel more industrious and less like my sluggish, chocolate-scarfing holiday self.

I’ve been out shovelling snow 6 times so far, for a total of 3 hours (and Rom put in the same). Another 15 cm is due tomorrow!

I mentioned I bought a hockey helmet because they’re required at the rink now for all ages. I finally got back on the ice this month and got out skating 3 times. I found out that I can do 40 laps of the rink in 40 minutes (10 laps is a mile.) I’ve been attending adults-only skate times with no pesky children to impede my progress, LOL! I have done my time at Family Skates!

As you know, I also vowed to walk to and from work as much as possible.ย It’s 1.5 km each way, a brisk 15 minute walk. On an average day, I walk 3 km, and on a good day I walk home for lunch as well, making it a 6 km walking day. By the end of the week I will have walked to work on 15 out of 20 work days, for a total of 75 km (46.6 miles). It has already got to the point that if I have to take my car to drive across town to a meeting, I desperately miss the walk.

I’m quite pleased with how much I’ve toughened up over the month. I wanted to keep walking in all weather, and we’ve sure had all weather! The temperatures have ranged from -19 to +8C. We did have two blizzards that were so bad that work was cancelled, so I skipped those! (Normally we only get about one snow day a year). I’ve discovered that at -12, my face is cold, and at -19, my eyeballs are cold ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, I’m very aware that -19 is nothing compared to the temperatures this winter from Ontario to Alberta.

We’ve had weeks of cold temperatures, alternating with weeks of rain, so my outdoor gear and footwear have had a good test! To my surprise, my everyday, non-Arctic jackets are perfectly fine. My new hiking boots are awesome on the ice and warm too. My fleece-lined rubber boots are perfect for cold winter rain. I’ve decided I’ll get new rain gear because my 10-year-old set soaks through over the course of a 15-minute walk, and doesn’t have a proper hood. I also need some serious Arctic-quality mittens.

It’s not just the walking, but the daylight and the fresh air that have really lifted my mood (that I didn’t even know needed lifting). That’s been quite a revelation for me because I had always though that hibernation worked fine for me in January!

Another thing I tried out (without making it a proper goal) was cutting back on sweets, my very serious weakness. I finished off the Christmas candy by Jan 6 and didn’t stock up again after that. Rom and I went cold turkey and didn’t buy ice cream for the month of January either. I decided I would snack on whatever I liked, as long as I wasn’t buying candy and treats. So for the whole month, I ate my fill of raisins, nuts, popcorn and fruit. (Rom and I did share a bag of tortilla chips). And I gained 2 pounds! But I don’t mind because I have made a big dent in my sugar habit and overall, I feel better. I hope to cut back on snacking, rather than just sweets, but that will come in time.

How are you doing on January health resolutions?

33 comments

  1. I managed not to put on any weight over Christmas, but have put on a bit since (possibly due to finishing up the Christmas leftovers!)
    This month, I have been walking to work, and I too have felt much better than I usually do at this time of year. We’ve not really had any winter weather yet, though, just cold and wet and windy weather!
    I’ve been much better at meal planning and thus at actually cooking recently- the challenge now is to begin to alter what I am cooking to involve more veg!

    • Very good, Nicola! I’m surprised, too, that I even feel good when I walk in grey, rainy weather. Meal planning and cooking at home regularly make a huge impact – I would even say they changed my life.

  2. Wow – that’s the way to attack SAD. I definitely suffer from it – but like you* have got out a little more this month and it’s worked – I feel happier!
    *Well not as much as you lol, but more than I would normally in January.

    I’ve lost the 3lbs I gained over the holiday period, but so far haven’t lost anything else – weigh in is Friday so we shall see. I’m eating a lot better though!

    With that wind chill you need to wear ski goggles on the way to work!

  3. todadwithlove

    I am not doing well on my January health resolution; still having my finger of kit kat every night. And Dar, I’d trade cold eyeballs for 40 degree Celsius days. Willingly. Two more coming up this weekend … Sigh

  4. todadwithlove

    I should’ve said: trade 40 degree days for cold eyeballs … the heat is melting my head. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. The outside air and sunshine must be addicting or something, because I find myself craving outdoor walks as well. ๐Ÿ™‚ The best thing I ever bought was insulated pants – they keep me so warm alone, but then I can layer them with long johns as needed. It’s been colder and snowier than normal winter here (they call it the polar vortex whenever that cold air from the middle of Canada comes for a visit and I just love that phrase, haha). The coldest it’s been is -16F with the windchill (-27C), so no where near the -70F weather I’ve been hearing about – thank goodness! Maybe those 2 pounds you gained are muscles?

    • It’s funny – in the US you say that the cold air comes from Canada, and here we say it comes from “the Arctic”! I was thinking of buying a pair of the flannel-lined jeans. Right now I have a pair of Gortex rain pants which are not warm, but they block the wind so I wear them for freezing walks or for shovelling snow. Gaining muscle – yes, that must be it ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I am very impressed! I tend to stay inside in cold (or very hot) weather and need to get over that!.

  7. Hubby loves to announce that 21st December is the shortest day and spring is on its way…..as we are keen motorbike people this gives us hope for better days to come – in particular our annual biking holiday at the end of May.

  8. aaah the dreaded Christmas leftovers – I am too waste conscious to get rid of them but too weight conscious to eat them without the guilt. I am just tucking into the last of the bars of dark chocolate tonight and telling myself of the health benefits. Well done with the fitness – I need a fitness buddy to encourage me and get me moving – I am definitely hibernating at the moment.

    • I brought some (new, unopened) candy to work to help me along (by not having to eat it myself, because I have no willpower when it’s in the house). I normally don’t do anything in January but this year it has worked to break the pattern.

  9. Curt

    Hi,
    LOL! One day, the battle raged on and on. Sudden Annoying Depression set in for the fight. I did not know the enemy was even there. I had just moved from San Jose California, to Corvallis Oregon. There the enemy for a while lurked. The first year, I arrived in January. It was January first. Little did I know that an expecptional year was waiting to greet me, in a false Welcome to Oregon, and Welcome to Corvallis, way.
    August 31st came and went. I noticed this day. It was roughly the same as all the days since my arrival. Stormy and overcast. It was horrible. The hidden enemy made it so.
    I decided to stay one more year to be sure. To myself and others maybe I said out loud. “One more year like this, and I am out of here. That has been more than 19 years ago, and the battle has been rough but eventually it was won.
    Of all things, I was never depressed in my life before. Not even in Middle Michigan was I ever depressed. Not in Chicago was I depressed. I was depressed one winter in San Jose California though. I found out after one day, I went into a warm room. Instantly my depression left. The suddenness of it all stayed with me. The memory was of not even knowing I was depressed, and then somehow just a warm room made it go away.
    I later pondered, this. I think it may have been that I was on a construction project there, sleeping in one of the buildings that were to remain. The owner was pleased with my actions. I figured because it was warm, always above 40 degrees even at night, that I would have precisely, no issues with this decision. Only it wasn’t true. Constantly being cold, for more than 30 days, took its toll.
    In Oregon, the problem of cold and lack of sunshine, took it’s toll, but there is a silver lining to this cloud. After much thinking reading and maybe being directed by some unseen force, I find myself reading a book. In that book for the subject, I seem to match. So, I do what the book says. I knew there were light :DDDD site affects that were possible. I took it anyway. I took it again years later after I thought only SAD came back. I took it then only for a short time, because I still had no SAD.
    However, panacea’s and stories of a perfect life, just don’t seem to exist on this earth. So, next year that possible side effect kicked in.
    LOL! So, as they are looking at me greedily, I know what is on their minds. “If we can convince this person, to let us, we can bill his insurance for 80,000 dollars. Sure that equipment, the treadmill chart, is not accurate. However it is people like this, with insurance, that let us afford to treat, the needier patients.” I however, went along for awhile, only they did one test that sort of proved, that my heart was indeed “a little clogged.”
    I awoke two days later, and decided this was too painful and too hard for me. I decided not to let them increase the revenues of their hospital. I could not take the procedure, I thought.
    Someone informed me. “It is already done” One of the side effects of the medicine, that I had to sign a form telling then I knew of that and didn’t care, was heart clogging, when otherwise it would not have happened. I would do it again in an instant if SAD ever returned as bad as it was for me.
    Well my burgers are done. I use ground pork, ground beef, eggs, spices, bread crumbs, then make hamburger patties rather than, a meatloaf. I have been cooking ever since I can remember, and if there is one thing that cooking for myself has taught me. If you love the people your are cooking for, the food tastes oh so much better. It is the secret ingredient of great cooks and moms, the world over. Cook out of love for the person or people you are cooking for, and they notice the food tasted great. Typically though, it is not said, to them why.
    Anyway, just in case, and I don’t recommend this, Itraconazole can help for some not all people I am sure, when the wonderful suggestions about walking and getting outside don’t work. Although, now that I know that cooking your own meals, walks outside, make SAD go away, I wonder if back then that would have worded?
    Well doctors and hospitals, need money too. Maybe I should look at it that way.
    …Curt..

    • Hi Curt! From what I was reading, low energy is perfectly normal for all humans in the dark, cold time of year, akin to hibernating. So it doesn’t mean we are sick and need to be fixed. But if a person already has depression and/or anxiety and it gets worse seasonally, then medical treatment could be helpful. There would be no harm in trying light therapy, outdoor activities or good food first, or in addition to medical help! It’s good when people can reflect on their lives and recognize their seasonal patterns. For myself, I always used to get sad and anxious around May (late Spring) and I realized it was because I liked the structure of going to school and seeing all my friends there. When school ended in June, I would have long days at home with no friends nearby and no brain challenges!

      PS – Just today at work we were talking about how much MORE dreary it must be in places like the UK or the Pacific Coast (BC, Washington, Oregon) because it seems so endlessly grey and rainy there in winter. We have a lot of beautiful sunny days.

  10. Wow you’ve done a great job sticking to your plan (even with the no junk food part!). Im sure all of the exercise and being outside has helped–sitting inside in the dark for months on end is bound to make anyone depressed!

  11. All I can say Dar is you haven’t let the grass grow under your feet have you lol. You’d be In My Mum’s good books for following one of her favourite expressions – Start the way you mean to finish!
    Incidental exercise never hurt anyone was also something she’d go on about – I never understood what she meant until I was the one who had to mow at the time The Golfer was working so many hours – lost kilos during those hot summers!
    Take care
    Cathy

  12. Gill

    well done on what you have achieved I am so over Winter now it’s not even funny!!

  13. Well done on the healthy eating and regular exercise. Sticking to something until it becomes a routine is the way to go. And I find with exercise, you start feeling funny when you don’t get it.

    I think a lot of people may not realise they suffer from SAD, especially if they have a mild dose, as it is often difficult to assess one’s mood. As you state, you didn’t even know your mood needed lifting. But then it could also be the lack of exercise as people hunker down.

    Even though our winters are mild, I know I feel lighter and have more bounce in summer when the sky feels lighter less close. Windows and doors thrown open, fresh air flowing through the house, the outdoors calling. I think you are brave to be walking everyday in the cold and wet.

    • It it less bravery and more perseverance! As I mentioned in another comment, I curiously often feel anxious as summer approaches because of the long, unstructured days. But it is balanced out by not feeling cold all the time!

  14. Lisa

    Ah, my January health resolutions are not going well. Congrats to you on sticking with yours! I am still craving and eating the sweets at night, and I’ve yet to get on my new indoor bike. Granted, it was only set up by my husband last night, but I hadn’t been bugging him to set it up either ๐Ÿ˜‰

    However, I do get out for my daily dog walk/snowshoe no matter the temperature. From my time living North of 60, I have learned that you must get outside. Truly, you can dress for any weather and enjoy being outside. Funny enough, my husband who suffers from SAD was the one that didn’t want to leave the north. Once he disciplined himself to use his daylight light in the mornings and get outside at lunch he managed to tame his SAD symptoms. With only 4-5 hours of daylight in the winter, you just have to get outside!

    Despite the cold, darkness and length of a northern winter, I sometimes miss it because when winter came it stayed and it was relatively consistent with lots of sunny days (within the 4-5 hours), unlike Ontario where the weather is up and down, from rain to snow, and often gloomy.

    • I have never lived in the North and I bet it would give you a different perspective. I think it’s great that you snowshoe; I’ve never tried it. I used to have x-country skis but after the boots wore out I would have had to upgrade from the old 3-pin bindings I had, and of course to the shorter skis, so I never made the switch. Just lately I was thinking of how I missed it! Maybe scout out some used gear for next winter.

  15. For reasons I can’t fathom I didn’t get an email notification of your last two posts (like usual). So I’m late the party!

    You’ve done incredibly well this month – you sneeze at my stair challenge update I just posted! That being said, I’ve added in almost daily exercise with a hope/aim of earning about 200-300 calories ‘extra’ in my diet. I’ve largely cut out sweets, with exceptions made for my birthday and a few other times. But most ‘sugar’ is now from coffee (the mocha/choc part) and fruit.

    I dropped the morning walks. I was too tired at work some days. Whilst I loved the cool mornings, I have been making up for sweaty afternoons! (Like other Aussies, I can’t fathom the negative temps you mention). This coming week starts a formal 12 week program, so I shall see how I endure!

    • I would not be walking anywhere if I had to be at work at 7! I don’t know if I would fare well on that schedule. Right now I have 3 hours before work, then 8 hours of work, then I slack off from 5-10:30. If I got home at 3, I would slack off from 3-10:30 (or go to bed at 9:30)!

  16. I have no words. Walking in minus 19C temperatures?!?! That’s like something from a movie about Explorers and Pioneers.

    That’s a fantastic effort for the month. I think it’s especially amazing that you can work out at home so effectively. Do you find it hard to get motivated without others to push you (lol…that might just be me!)

    I’m really happy that I have also stuck to my walking plan in January. I’ve lost 4.5kgs and just got down to a new ‘threshold’…last reached 5 years ago. Very happy with clothes that are now loose!

    • I really think the walking has been transformative. It’s great you’ve been able to keep working it into your day. 4.5 kilos! That is remarkable.

      I suppose the home workouts work for me because I don’t have to get myself outdoors or to a gym. I also look forward to listening to music and reading e-books for part of the time. I could never work out in the evenings – I would just crash.

  17. I WISH I could get used to the winters!I. Just can’t ๐Ÿ˜ฆ at all. Maybe next year though? X

    • This is Rom’s 4th winter in Canada and I think he would say he is fully acclimated now! I think what did it, is spending time outdoors every day (he waits for the bus to and from work every day now, instead of driving).

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