Beat the Cold Weather Blues 

It’s no secret that most people experience changes in their energy, motivation, sleep patterns and mood as the seasons change.  The shorter days and decreased sunlight are believed to be the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression that is brought on during the fall and winter months. SAD is characterized by symptoms of depression, including feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, changes in sleep/appetite, and increased feelings of lethargy or low energy.

Just as with depression brought on by any other cause, it is thought that a good number of individuals self-medicate these feelings with substances. In fact, studies have shown that 20% of those who suffer from depression self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. If you’re finding that your mood is shifting and your alcohol intake is increasing, SAD could be a factor.

National Institute for Mental Health- https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Boredom, Isolation and Increased Substance Use

As the weather gets colder, for many, recreation opportunities seem less accessible. Cold weather, snow, and shorter days can keep people inside, which can lead to large doses of boredom and isolation.  Boredom, isolation, and substance use can go hand in hand. 

If you’re turning to alcohol or other substances to cope with feelings of boredom and isolation, it’s time to address these deeper issues. Learning healthier ways to deal with the underlying feelings will help you combat the substance use.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Find indoor hobbies and activities you can do until the weather is better.  Keep your mind active and focused on something non-alcohol or substance-related.
  • Invest in a home gym, or even just a treadmill.  Staying active not only boosts your mental health, but fills the time you might otherwise use. 
  • Keep in touch with friends and family. We tend to hibernate during fall and winter months and socialize less. Make it a point to keep in touch, even when you don’t really feel like it. Social support can be a major factor in managing addictive behavior and the added accountability can provide some extra motivation not to use.
  • Address the reasons you use when you are bored. This could be the sign of an underlying issue and reliance on substances to cope.
  • Get outside any chance you get!  If you use to fend off cabin fever, get outdoors as much as you can! Winter is an amazing time for benefiting from recreation and leisure!

There are many winter and cold weather activities to choose from:

  • Go ice skating.
  • Build a winter bonfire and make s’mores.
  • Rent some snowshoes and go snowshoeing.
  • If you have the equipment, go winter camping and/or hiking. Or, check out your state parks for cabin rentals. 
  • Take your dog for a walk. It’s one of the main benefits of having and owning a dog.
  • Go cross-country skiing.
  • Go sledding.
  • Build a fort and have a snowball fight with your kids (or your spouse/partner). Or buy a snow block maker and build an igloo.
  • Shovel paths in the snow.
  • Feed the birds or go birdwatching. Make your own birdfeeders out of pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed.
  • Go ice fishing.
  • Head out on a photo expedition to take pictures of the winter landscape. 
  • Check-out your local town and community and set off on foot to explore it! 

Recreational Therapy is a core component of Top of the World Ranch Treatment Center- all year round.  Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. 

Active involvement in recreation has been demonstrated to relate positively to the following health outcomes:

    • Improvement in ability to manage stressors which threaten sobriety
    • Improvement in social interaction and social networks
    • Enhancement of sober lifestyle and identity

For more information on Recreational Therapy, visit the American Therapeutic Recreation Association website at https://www.atra-online.com/.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, give us a call us at the Top of the World Ranch in Milan, Illinois. Come join us at our beautiful ranch surrounded by the beauty of nature. Call toll-free at 1.844.814.8885 or email at help@topoftheworldranch.com.

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