There are many reasons why winter is often considered an emotional downer. Some counselors attribute this wintry melancholy to post-holiday stress, while others believe it has more to do with isolation caused by blustery weather.

Some studies associate seasonal depression with less sunlight and more darkness. Other factors contributing to depression include lack of exercise, changes in diet, prolonged grief (especially during the holidays) and straying from spiritual values.

One noted psychologist and popular clinician offers these suggestions for overcoming depression:

1. Visit your physician. Depression might be a symptom of a physical problem such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia or endocrine imbalance.

2. Eat healthy. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoid caffeine, sugar, junk food and especially alcohol.

3. Get enough sleep. Exhaustion adds to depression. Sleep refreshes the body and uplifts the spirit.

4. Be active. Physical activity can lift you out of depression. Avoid too much television and too many passive activities.

5. Be social. Surrounding yourself with people, especially positive people, can keep your mind off your problems and distract you from feeling sorry for yourself. Social interactions help pull you from your depression.

6. Do fun activities. When you are depressed, nothing sounds enjoyable. But getting out and doing what you used to enjoy will improve your attitude and after a while you will have fun.

7. Write out your feelings. Emotions trapped inside you increase depression. Getting them on paper can release the internal pressure. Write about your anger, grief, confusion or anything else that is bothering you.

8. Surround yourself with positives. Fill your life with positive people, positive music, positive books and positive situations. Stay away from the negatives.

9. Check out your negative self-talk. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. If you are saying negative things to yourself, it will make you feel worse. Put a positive spin on your life.

10. Make plans and dreams for the future. Make a list of all the things you wish to do in the future and then plan how to make them a reality.

11. Develop your faith. Faith in God provides hope. It lifts a person above the frustrations of life. Faith pulls a person above depression and provides perspective to difficulties.

12. Get help if the depression persists. Meet with a pastor if there are spiritual issues, a counselor if there are emotional problems or your physician for appropriate medication. It is a sign of wisdom and courage to seek help if needed.

If you sense that depressing thoughts or feelings are dominating your life, be proactive and take appropriate steps to help overcome your depression.

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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