The winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder. Winter depression. Whatever you call it, getting the doldrums during the coldest, darkest months of the year is common. The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes can make an enormous difference in how you feel this winter. If you are feeling a bit sluggish, sad, overwhelmed, or apathetic during the cooler months, take a look at these nine proven ways to beat the winter blues.
1. Get Some Sunshine and Fresh Air
One of the reasons that many people get the winter blues is that there’s less daylight during the fall and winter. You might leave for work or school in the dark and then get home in the dark. Your body’s circadian rhythms can get thrown off and you might just want to stay in bed all day. Instead, make the effort to get some sunshine and fresh air each day. Try to find time to get out of your office and into the sun. Even if it’s overcast, you’ll still be soaking up some of the sun’s rays, which can boost your mood significantly.
2. Exercise for 30 Minutes Each Day
Sitting around begets more sitting around, and this can lead to mild depression. Rather than staying in your pajamas or under a blanket on your sofa, get up and move around. Do an exercise video, go to a Zumba class, or put on your coat and go for a run. Getting a half hour of exercise each day staves off health problems associated with being sedentary, can help you lose excess weight, and will keep your endorphins circulating, making you feel better both physically and mentally.
3. Follow a Routine
If you’re feeling like nothing is getting accomplished and that’s making you feel depressed, stick to a routine to keep you on track. Achieving small goals each day will boost your mood and help you feel better. Start each day by getting dressed (this is easier if you lay out your clothing the night before so you have one less decision to make in the morning). Fit time into your day to do something nice for yourself and also to exercise. By knowing when you will accomplish these small tasks, you will feel as though you’re doing something productive, which can reduce depression.
4. Eat Your Vegetables
Winter is a time when many of us rely on heavy comfort foods. While it’s nice to snuggle up with a bowl of macaroni and cheese or heavy beef stew, you need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep your digestive system on track and to avoid that heavy, lethargic feeling. Try to fit fruits and vegetables in where you can: Stir berries into yogurt for breakfast, add a salad to your lunch, and fill half your plate with roasted broccoli, carrots, or green beans at dinnertime. While you’re at it, add some whole grains and lean protein sources to round out your diet.
5. Make Plans With Friends
Winter blues and bad weather can cause you to become more isolated. This, in turn, can lead to more depression. Break the cycle by making plans with friends. If you don’t have friends who are interested in getting together, try volunteering at the library, walking dogs for the humane society, or joining a church or community organization. Putting yourself out there and talking to others is one way to make yourself feel like socializing even more, which is a much better cycle to be in.
6. Find Fun, Wintery Things to Do
If you dread winter because you don’t get to enjoy the outdoors as much and you’re afraid that you’ll be bored, the key to your happiness just might be in finding fun things to do that go along well with the winter season. If you don’t mind the cold weather, consider outdoor activities like going ice skating or skiing. Indoor activities that are well-suited for the winter months include:
- movie marathons
- roasting marshmallows in the fireplace
- playing board games with your friends and family
7. Check Your Vitamin D Levels
A vitamin D deficiency can cause or exacerbate wintertime depression. The human body synthesizes vitamin D in response to exposure to sunlight, so when there’s less sunlight, you might develop a deficiency of vitamin D. Since this can be one reason why people develop the winter blues, it can help to have your levels checked. Ask your doctor about whether your vitamin D levels are low and if so, the right amount of supplements to take.
8. Ask Your Doctor About a Light Therapy Box
If you are suffering from depression due to a lack of sunlight and it’s not possible for you to solve the problem naturally, you might benefit from a light therapy box. Be aware that some light therapy boxes are made to treat skin conditions and they often emit UV rays. For seasonal depression, a light box without UV rays is adequate and won’t expose you to any danger. Talk to your doctor about the best way to use it.
9. Talk to a Therapist
If you’ve tried some lifestyle changes and you’re still feeling the winter blues, make an appointment to see a therapist. Counseling can help you feel better by showing you steps to take to change your thinking and your response to the changes you’re experiencing. In some cases, people also use antidepressants in conjunction with therapy; talk to a mental health professional to see if you are a good candidate for that type of treatment.
The winter blues are no fun, but by taking some steps toward making yourself feel better, you’ll find that you are no longer spending your summer dreading the fall and winter. You can feel good all year long. Talk to your doctor if you think you have seasonal affective disorder or depression that lasts longer than two weeks or negatively impacts your day to day life.