Are you feeling irritable, depressed, bored, or listless? If you’ve been in a funk lately but can’t seem to figure out why, it could be a case of the winter blues. You may have heard of the term seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a condition where darker, colder winter days cause feelings of sadness, loneliness, and depression. While these feelings can happen any time of year, they tend to spike more during the winter months.
Not everyone experiences seasonal affective disorder, and people who have had SAD don’t necessarily suffer from it every winter season. Sometimes it correlates with unfortunately-timed life events, and the colder, darker days end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Are you stuck feeling down in the dumps every winter if you struggle with SAD? Absolutely not!
There are plenty of things you can do to chase away the winter blues and even prevent them from creeping up on you in the first place.
Hopefully, these tips will help you or someone you know to experience more joy this winter.
1. Get more natural light to fend off seasonal affective disorder.
When it’s colder out, we tend to stay indoors more so we get less natural light. Without adequate exposure to natural light, you’re probably not getting nearly enough vitamin D3. Most people in the U.S. are already vitamin D deficient. When your low vitamin D levels plummet even lower in the winter, you’re going to feel crummy.
To help alleviate the winter blues, you need to get yourself outdoors even when the weather isn’t your cup of tea.
The key to making going outdoors in cold winter weather more bearable is to dress properly for the weather.
Know how to layer your clothing so the winter chill won’t cut through you.
- Your base layers should be slim-fitting and moisture-wicking.
- Choose synthetic fibers or Merino wool. You want to avoid cotton because you’ll end up wet and feeling even colder when you sweat.
- Your outer layers should be water-resistant or waterproof to protect you from wind and moisture.
- Always make sure your head and ears are covered to retain warmth.
Once you’ve got the proper winter gear, pop outdoors and get some natural light and some exercise. Both of these will help a lot with the winter blues.
You may not be in the mood to go outside, but sometimes you just have to push yourself. Once you’re out there, it’s much easier to keep going. Consider it like medicine, only the natural kind.
If you’re working from home, you need to pay extra attention to getting yourself outside.
When you’re not forced to leave the house to commute to work, you could spend an excessive amount of time indoors without even realizing it. You’d be surprised how long you can go without stepping foot outdoors and not giving it a second thought.
Make extra efforts to get outside, even if it’s just to get the mail or take out the garbage. Don’t rush through it — try to savor the time you’re out there to get that natural light your body and mind need.
2. Take vitamin D3 supplements to boost your mood.
Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to depression and low energy associated with seasonal affective disorder. As many people are already low on vitamin D3, adding a supplement to your daily regimen makes sense, especially during the winter months.
Some people are at a higher risk of experiencing SAD than others. If you already suffer from depression, the darker, colder months can worsen symptoms. And, if you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun, you’ll be even more vulnerable to the winter blues.
Taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement daily during the winter months can help alleviate seasonal affective disorder symptoms.
Ideally, you’ll want to use a liquid vitamin D3 supplement as this is more easily assimilated by the body, and you’ll be able to reap the maximum benefits.
3. Light therapy is a top recommended treatment for SAD.
For those days where you absolutely cannot bear to go outside, you can try light therapy, also called phototherapy. This involves using an artificial light source, like a light therapy box, which helps produce strong light as you would get from the sun. The idea behind it is that exposure to the light triggers your brain to produce more serotonin, a mood-boosting chemical.
It is a very bright light, so you wouldn’t want to look directly into it, just as you wouldn’t look directly into the sun. You just want to have the light therapy box aimed at you — you don’t need to look at it directly to get the mood-elevating benefits. Let the light shine on you as you complete tasks in the morning. Since you will need to be in one spot for the light to shine on you, I wouldn’t recommend it when you need to be up and moving around.
The best time to use a light therapy box is in the morning during the sunlight’s natural hours.
I like to set up my light therapy box on my desk since I work from home. You only need to use it for 10 to 15 minutes a day for therapeutic benefits, although you can use it longer if you wish.
Thankfully, these boxes don’t take up a lot of space and aren’t very expensive. Some even have added features like ionizers that add purifying negative ions to the air, similar to the air in a forest or by the ocean.
4. Staying active can help beat the winter blues.
Exercise is one of the top ways to boost your mood. Studies have shown that the effects of regular exercise can rival those of antidepressants. And there are none of the unpleasant side effects associated with medication (other than a rockin’ bod). Plus, exercise can be 100% free. You don’t need to join a gym or buy fancy workout clothes. Start by just throwing on some comfy clothes and taking a walk.
Just 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 days a week can help stave off seasonal depression.
I like to grab a buddy to go walking with, or if I go solo, I listen to a podcast on my phone. If you’re using earbuds, just make sure you’re aware of your surroundings to stay safe. Some people get so engrossed in podcasts while out walking that they don’t look out for cyclists or cars.
5. Hygge brings more joy to the darker months.
If you haven’t already heard of this Danish concept, you’re in for a treat! Although there is no exact English translation for the word hygge, the closest definition is cozy. It’s essentially creating a relaxed atmosphere that just feels good in your heart.
Since people tend to get the blues as natural light wanes in the winter and the days get shorter, hygge serves as a way to brighten things up and bring joy to the darkness.
Envision strings of white lights, warm blankets, fluffy pillows, hot beverages, baked goodies, and people (and pets!) you love. Now, of course, this isn’t the only way to incorporate some hygge into your life, but it’s a typical scene. Hygge was created as a remedy for Denmark’s long, dark winters, but it can be a part of your life all year long.
To learn more about the concept of hygge and how it can help brighten up your day, check out my all-time favorite book on the subject – The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.
6. Have an orange to elevate your mood.
The oils from citrus fruits are well-known mood boosters. Just inhaling the scent of a fresh-cut orange can lift your spirits.
You could also use pure essential oils to help perk you up. Use an oil diffuser or simply place a few drops on cotton balls and place them around the room. To keep them out of view, you could sneak some under the furniture.
Some great essential oil blends to help lift your mood are:
2 drops orange
2 drops bergamot
2 drops eucalyptus
4 drops orange
2 drops clary sage
2 drops orange
2 drops lavender
2 drops frankincense
Choose one of these blends and add the oils to a diffuser, a cotton ball, or a 2 oz spray bottle with water and a splash of vodka or witch hazel. Now just inhale…
7. Reset your mind by taking a nap.
Sometimes when you’re feeling down in the dumps and emotional and nothing is helping you get out of your funk, you may need to switch gears and take a nap.
Napping could help stop the cycle of negative thoughts and give your mind a much-needed rest. It doesn’t need to be long either; it could simply be a 20-minute catnap.
The idea behind napping for mood enhancement is to stop the negative train of thought and start fresh when you wake up.
8. Decluttering can be therapeutic.
Studies have shown that physical clutter can create mental clutter.
Cleaning up your surroundings and getting rid of things you no longer need can be therapeutic.
If seasonal affective disorder has got you feeling particularly fatigued, don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to do a major overhaul of your entire house. Choose just one small area to start and see how you feel. Maybe take a look in your fridge and get rid of anything that’s expired. Even something small like that can help you feel just a bit better.
If you choose to donate the items you no longer need to an animal shelter or a homeless shelter, you’ll be doing a good deed that will also help boost your spirits.
9. Doing something nice for others can lift your spirits.
When you’re stuck in a rut, the last thing you may want to do is help someone else. You might think you don’t have anything to offer when you’re in a foul mood, but volunteering can help you feel better. If you’re unsure where to start, check out websites like VolunteerMatch to find organizations seeking volunteers in your area.
As with volunteering, doing something nice for someone is also another way to increase positivity.
Even if you’re not in the mood to go out and visit with family or friends, you could give them a little surprise like pizza delivery or some groceries delivered through Instacart. Make sure they’ll be home to accept the delivery, of course!
Make This Winter Wonderful
Although a big part of feeling better is adjusting your mindset, seasonal affective disorder is a real struggle for some. But you don’t have to settle for feeling bummed out just because it’s colder and darker. Using some of the tips above, you can ensure that this winter will be the best one yet!
To empower yourself to feel your best this winter, choose one or more tips to try from this list. Focus on how you want to feel — scratch all the sadness and negativity that may have plagued you during past winters. Approach the day knowing that you are taking action for your own wellbeing.
There are so many wonderful things to appreciate about winter — the key is to focus on the positive.
Every season has its own beauty.
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