Guilt, Demotivation, and Seasonal Affective Moods Sabotage Resolutions


The holidays are over. All the cookies have been eaten, unwanted stuff returned, gift cards spent. January dawned as if expecting more from us now that the old year was done. Some of us vowed to lose weight, get more exercise, start a stress reduction program, or really save money this time. Now it's February, and after that month, or week of commitment and slipping accountability, we have already abandoned those earnest resolutions. What gives?

Too many resolutions are made out of guilt. You know you should be working on self improvement, but it's as if some little saboteur inside you brain says, oh heck, just skip it today, no one will notice.

And before you knew it, skipping it today turned into just letting it all go -- again.

Now there's guilt on top of guilt. It's a vicious cycle that for some can lead to lower self-esteem. For others, the guilt cycle might contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is classified as a mood disorder, which also includes the various forms of depression. More than 20 million adults in the United States suffer from a clinically significant degree of a mood disorder. Symptoms can include:

  • chronically pessimistic outlook

  • frequent fatigue and low energy

  • difficulty making decisions and completing tasks

  • changes in sleep and eating

  • lowered interest in pleasurable activities and socializing

  • physical aches, pains, and digestive problems

  • long periods of sadness with increased anxiety

  • feeling helpless, worthless, and without hope

Unique to SAD, is that it is believed to be related to the change in seasons, and especially to the lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter. But it is also possible to experience seasonal mood changes during spring and summer as well -- research has yet to firmly establish why.

Having a lack of motivation and feeling guilty about not getting things done is one of the hallmarks of SAD, which ties directly back to failing to accomplish those new year's resolutions.

What Can You Do About Seasonal Affective Moods?

1. Get Moving

Bundle up and get out in that cold crisp sunlight, if only just for a walk around the block. Get your heart and lungs pumping to circulate oxygen through your system has a positive effect on low moods. No need to go to extremes. Don't even call it exercise, if you have a mental block about that. Make it simple -- park a little further from the grocery store or office door, or just walk around the block or through a park. Movement, cold air, and sunlight can increase energy and motivation.

2. Increase Indoor Lights

Sit closer to a window, if possible, earlier in the day and at lunch. Investigate getting a special full spectrum light lamp to provide even more mood stabilizing benefits. But turn room lights low two hours before bedtime, and reduce use of electronics at night to help get to sleep, if insomnia is a problem.

3. Explore Holistic Remedies

If you work with a doctor who is qualified in holistic or naturopathic medicine, ask about supplements to boost the immune system, which may also help normalize sleep, appetite, and energy. The renowned Mayo Clinic mentions supplements such as St John's Wort, melatonin, SAM-e, and omega-3, along with the possibility of acupuncture for SAD.

4. Do Some Yoga, QiGong, or Meditation

Unless going to group sessions is your thing -- and for sure the enthusiasm generated by social interactions can have a beneficial, mood elevating impact -- a little stretching and relaxing can be done on your own with the many online videos or CDs available today. Practices such as yoga, qigong, and meditation can have the gentle result of feeling better inhabiting your body, which can translate into feeling more optimistic and motivated in general. Don't think of it as exercise. Think of it as stress management that's better than booze and pills to feel better and get stuff done.

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