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It’s no coincidence that when things start to get cold and cloudy in Ohio (and in Ohio, we mean cloudy), many of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, referred to as SAD. Locals might joke about it being a result of eating too much spicy Skyline chili or being constantly reminded that we live in the heartland of cornfields, but the truth is, this condition can seriously impact our mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Johns Hopkins University defines Seasonal Affective Disorder as a “type of depression [that] happens during certain seasons of the year—most often fall or winter.” It goes on to say that most individuals who actively seek treatment for clinical depression experience positive changes, often within a matter of weeks. But when it comes to the day-to-day, there are many remedies. 

Combatting SAD

What exactly causes this unique condition? It turns out that it’s not just a mere coincidence that SAD strikes when the weather turns gloomy. Take the combination of cold, cloudy, and less daylight, and you have Ohio in the winter, but you also have a lot of reasons why we start to feel the effects of SAD. 

In this SAD series, we will take one tip and break it into multiple choices of simplified, actionable self-care steps that you can do here in Columbus, Ohio. 

Let’s begin with MOVEMENT! Movement has long been known to positively impact physical health, but it can also help combat SAD. If you’re not moving regularly through exercise or daily activities, the key to success here is purposeful movement that you can do by accident. So here are some great ways to keep moving outdoors throughout the winter months.

Girl with her back facing camera wearing fur coat, gloves and hat standing outside on a snowy day with her arms out | Columbus therapists at Blue Boat Counseling can help with seasonal depression.

Jingle All the Way…Around Columbus

Our pace can unintentionally decrease during the winter season as we engage in fewer outdoor activities (see you in the spring, soccer plains). The cold weather and shorter days often make it more challenging to find motivation to stay active and maintain our usual routine. However, this change in pace can present an opportunity for us to shift our focus to new ways of enjoying the holidays and incorporating movement with activities that help us forget about the actual amount of work involved. This can include taking advantage of holiday shopping (trust us), admiring the mesmerizing lights, or embracing winter activities with open arms (arms that are heavily insulated in a warm jacket). 

Let’s start by addressing holiday shopping since the potential stress seems to contradict the whole concept of self-care. Since waiting until the eleventh hour to shop only adds stress, why not walk and explore local downtown holiday shopping events just for the sake of moving and window shopping? This approach eliminates any financial commitment. However, if you happen upon some fantastic gift options during your visit, go ahead and get them. This way, you can kill two birds (dare we say turtle doves) with one stone, contributing toward your to-do list and even more self-care. Here are some great local events to take advantage of.

Downtown Worthington is always great to get out and explore, but Worthington’s Sunday Funday: Holiday Open House on November 26, 2023, from 12-5 p.m. is not to be missed. Experience the charm of horse-drawn carriage rides as you explore the beautiful streets of Downtown Worthington. Enjoy live music and get into the holiday spirit with a special photo opportunity with Santa Claus himself, and then enjoy the Tree Illumination afterward. If you can’t make it that evening, stop by their Illuminated Shopping on Wednesday, December 6, 6-9 p.m., where you can take advantage of promotions and sidewalk sales offered by local retailers, all while making for perfect wintertime movement.

Old Worthington on a cold night during the holidays | learn how Blue Boat Counseling, located in Worthington Ohio, can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Old Worthington on a cold night during Illuminated Shopping during the holidays (photo credit – Experience Worthington)

If feeling like you’re inside a Dickens novel interests you, Granville is always a great option, but get lost in the magic and forget how much you’re moving at Granville’s Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour. It’s all day Saturday, Dec 02, 2023, and includes shops, displays, decorations, horse-drawn carriages, and even old-timey carolers and musicians. At the same time, they’ve guaranteed “the happy laughter of children as they sit on Santa’s knee,” but we’re not making any promises because…have you seen kids on Santa’s knee before?

Join Grandview Heights’ Holiday in the Heights on December 5th for a magical winter celebration and tree lighting ceremony. Hop aboard the trackless train as it glides along Grandview Avenue, offering a delightful ride through the festivities. Glide across the iceless ice rink, adding a touch of winter fun to your evening, and don’t miss the chance to meet live reindeer, a truly enchanting experience for all ages. Take your time strolling down the street, exploring the various vendors and sponsors lined up to make this event memorable. With activities catered to families, there’s something for everyone at Holiday in the Heights.

Sure, Easton is always a safe bet for using window shopping as an excuse to move during the holidays; however, as you’re aware, as Christmas day approaches, the experience may become more hectic and overwhelming (in terms of walking, driving, and spending) unless you’re prepared to go nowhere fast; then you’ll be just perfect. Bonus tip: Regarding holiday shopping, park at the back end of the lot to boost your daily step count and enable a more expedited departure.

So next time you see one of these downtown shopping events promoted, think outside the box (or shopping bag) and turn your day into a fun excuse to get moving.

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas in Columbus

One of the most enchanting experiences during the holiday season is leisurely walking through the streets adorned with stunning holiday lights. From bustling city centers to quaint neighborhoods, countless locations eagerly showcase dazzling displays. As you stroll among them, it’s hard not to be captivated by the magical atmosphere that envelops you.

Each location has its own unique way of showcasing its splendor through lights, and one can truly appreciate the creativity and effort that goes into these displays. Whether it’s an intricate arrangement of twinkling fairy lights strung delicately between trees or larger-than-life animated installations bringing a touch of whimsy to the streets, each display offers a new visual delight. Walking amidst these illuminated wonders feels like stepping into a Christmas carol where everything is imbued with a sense of wonder and joy. Here are a few ideas on where to get that magical movement.

For 36 years, the Columbus Zoo’s Wildlights has been wowing parkgoers and animals alike (you might say they’ve been captivated). From November 17 to January 7, guests can bask in the festive glow of millions of LED lights as they explore the zoo at night. With enchanting animated lights, opportunities to meet Santa and his reindeer, and various other merry activities, Wildlights will surely bring joy and movement to all who visit. Plus, it’s free to take advantage of if you have a season pass.

A wintery night at the Columbus Zoo during Wildlights | Blue Boat Counseling serves the Columbus Ohio area and can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo (photo credit – The Columbus Zoo)

If you need a break from Wildlights because it’s just too easy to keep hitting your steps there, this year, the Franklin Park Conservatory’s Conservatory Aglow might be the ultimate holiday wonderland event to get moving through! From November 18 to January 4, witness an enchanting atmosphere of new display lights synchronized with delightful holiday tunes while strolling outdoors captivated by the mesmerizing light installations. This holiday extravaganza promises to be an unforgettable experience for all!

During the winter season, downtown Columbus transforms into a magical wonderland as the Scioto Mile shines bright with holiday lighting. The enchanting display can be admired from sunset to sunrise every day once illuminated. Keep an eye out for more details about the 2023 lighting arrangements.

Reindeer Games around Columbus, Ohio

The arrival of winter is truly a magical time, as it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for outdoor activities. One of the most traditional pastimes during this season is ice skating. The mere thought of gliding gracefully on frozen sheets of ice, surrounded by crisp, frost-kissed air, fills one with excitement and anticipation. So, instead of just decking the halls, why not deck yourself out in some fantastic Johnny Weir ensemble? It’s not just about physical activity; it’s about the joy that comes from embracing the beauty of winter and connecting with nature in a completely different way.

Some great places to go outdoor skating are Coffman Park in Dublin (when temperatures dip below freezing for several days in a row), Franklin Park Conservatory (December 1-14 only, Included in Conservatory Aglow Admission), and Blendon Woods’ 0.4-acre skating pond that is 18 to 24 inches deep.

Instead of sleighing on the sofa, sled down some hills! There’s something exhilarating about zooming down a snow-covered hill on nothing more than a simple sled and overlooking the walk back because of the excitement of doing it all again. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there are even dedicated parks and hills specially designed for sledding enthusiasts. As you slide down these slopes at breakneck speeds, your heart pounding in your chest, worries seem to fade away–leaving only pure enjoyment in their wake.

Young girl wearing purple coat slides on her stomach on a red sled | Learn how therapists in columbus ohio can help with seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

A popular spot is Alum Creek State Park, where there is no sledding on the dam itself, but instead, it’s off the multi-purpose trail off Africa Rd. For longer runs as opposed to steeper hills, Sharon Woods in Westerville is perfect for those looking to avoid too much incline. For an extensive inventory of spots around you, check out this great list from Columbus on the Cheap

Beyond ice skating and sledding lie countless other activities waiting to be discovered during wintertime. From building snowmen or engaging in epic snowball fights to exploring snowy landscapes on cross-country skis or snowshoes, the possibilities are endless. So why not grab some friends or family, or just a pair of earbuds, and embark on an adventure? Explore nearby parks or venture further into uncharted territory—you never know what hidden treasures await you just beyond that next hill or around that bend in the trail, all in the name of MOVEMENT!

Feeling the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Therapy in Columbus, Ohio Can Help

Sometimes getting outside and moving your body aren’t enough to combat the effects of SAD, but a trained mental health therapist can help. You can take the first step to feeling more like the summer you by contacting us for an appointment. Your counseling journey with Blue Boat Counseling begins with these easy steps:

  1. Get in touch with us by clicking the scheduling button below
  2. Meet with one of our highly skilled counselors
  3. Start on your path to improved mental health and feeling more like you!

Therapy Services Offered at Blue Boat Counseling

Our therapists offer many mental health services to help a variety of needs. In addition to treating Seasonal Affective Disorder, we also offer therapy for teens, families, couples, veterans as well as treatment for anxiety, depression, and trauma. Online therapy is also an option for those living in the state of Ohio. Contact us to get scheduled for an appointment and check out our blog for more information on mental health.