10 Ways to Deal with the Winter Blues
As the days get colder and shorter, many people struggle with feelings of sadness, irritability, or loss of energy. This seasonal sadness is often labeled the “winter blues,” and it can have a devastating effect on your productivity and performance.
If you’re experiencing the winter blues, you don’t have to wait for sunnier days to brighten your mood. A few simple lifestyle changes and self-care practices can give you the boost you need to feel better.
What’s the difference between “winter blues” and SAD?
It’s important to note that there is a more serious, clinical version of the winter blues known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Often, the winter blues are linked to specific triggers, like a stressful holiday season or missing a loved one who has passed away. SAD follows a consistent pattern, appearing and eventually resolving itself at the same time each year. It usually lasts for five months or more.
SAD looks similar to other forms of depression. Sufferers may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and feel gloomy, irritable, and hopeless. They may experience feelings of worthlessness. It can also look like hibernation, including oversleeping, craving carbs, and putting on weight.
The tips below may help with the symptoms of SAD. But if your sadness continues for several weeks or begins to interfere with your daily life, talk to a health care provider or mental health professional.
Try these 10 tips to shake off your winter woes.
1. Get as much sunlight as possible.
Darker days throw off your body clock, which is activated by sunlight. Experts recommend getting as much sunlight as possible, especially at the start of your day.
If it’s difficult to get adequate natural sunlight, you can use “sunbox” lights designed to mimic light from the sun. They’re available at affordable prices online and are recommended as treatment for both the winter blues and SAD.
Placing the sunbox on a table for 30 minutes while you eat breakfast or get ready for work is the most beneficial strategy. If you have the time, heading somewhere sunnier for a week or two also helps.
Resetting your body clock helps lift depressive symptoms, and it’s also liked to appetite. So, if you’re getting unhealthy food cravings, sunlight can help with that, too.
2. Stay active.
Exercising may be the last thing you want to do when you’re down in the dumps, but it offers powerful mood-boosting effects. Studies show that physical activity is as effective as antidepressants in improving the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. If you can work out under bright lighting, that’s even better!
Start small by taking walks around the neighborhood or following a 10-minute exercise routine on Youtube. As you notice the positive effects, you may feel motivated to exercise more.
3. Do something fun.
Some people experience winter blues because the cold weather leaves them feeling trapped indoors. If that rings true for you, brainstorm some fun activities you can still do.
Host a movie night for your friends, start a project you might enjoy, engage in a hobby like reading or playing an instrument, etc. If it’s warm enough to go outdoors, do fun activities like making smores by a bonfire or going ice-skating.
Even if you don’t feel like doing things you normally enjoy, making time for them will brighten your mood.
4. Talk to a friend.
Confide in a friend or an adult you trust about how you’re feeling. Simply talking about what you’re going through is often a relief, and they may even have similar feelings.
In addition, it’s helpful to surround yourself with positive people. Those friends who always know how to make you smile and laugh are great companions when you’ve got the blues.
If you’re uncomfortable talking to someone else, writing in a journal has a similar impact.
5. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude is scientifically proven to improve physical and mental health, self-esteem, sleep, relationships, and more. It’s a simple practice that can significantly improve your well-being and life satisfaction.
Choose a time in your daily routine to jot down a few things you’re feeling grateful for each day. The best options are when you first wake up or right before you go to sleep at night. Even if you’re grateful for something small, write it down and take a moment to appreciate it. You’ll gradually feel better.
6. Stock up on vitamin D.
Many diseases, including depression, are linked to low levels of vitamin D. And where do we get most of our vitamin D? The sun.
During the winter months, it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement or eat foods with high levels of vitamin D. These foods include fish like salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines; egg yolks; mushrooms; oatmeal; cow’s milk and soy milk; and orange juice.
7. Eat healthy foods.
Nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains boost mood and energy levels (plus overall health).
Resist the urge to load up on carbs like cookies and cakes, and purchase healthy foods that you enjoy. If you need something sweet, go for some occasional dark chocolate. It’s a mood enhancer and anxiety reducer.
8. Bundle up.
Research shows that people with higher tolerance for cold weather are less likely to experience the winter blues. This means that in addition to the lack of sunlight, the cold weather itself may play a role in seasonal sadness.
Wear thick layers of clothing, sit by a warm fire, and cuddle up under a cozy blanket whenever possible. Staying warm may help thaw the winter blues.
9. Soothe your spirit.
We’ve covered taking care of yourself physically, but how do you like to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally?
This is a personal preference. Maybe you like to read, meditate, practice yoga, write, play an instrument, paint, listen to upbeat music, or cuddle your pet. Whatever soothes your spirit and brings you happiness, make time for it.
10. Be patient.
As you implement these tips, remember to be patient. Your mood won’t change overnight, but it will improve over time. Be consistent in using these strategies, and you’ll see your winter blues gradually melt away.