On some winter days, it’s truly a struggle to keep our spirits up and a smile on our faces. Studies have shown that four to six percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the cold, short days of winter, especially those living in the northern states where sunlight is even more scarce.
There are things you can do, however, to beat the winter blues! Read our 11 tricks to get you through the chilly months.
1. Talk about it.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that “talk therapy” combats seasonal depression even more effectively than treatment using light.
How is it so effective? According to Kelly Rohan, lead author of the study and a professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychological science at the University of Vermont, talk therapy gives you the tools to deal with winter lows year after year. The key is noticing changes in your thought patterns and behaviors.
Simply being around other people can also boost your mood. Even if you don’t feel up to it, force yourself to socialize—once you’ve started mingling, you may find that you’re suddenly in the mood to be with other people. Don’t just wait until you “feel like” getting out and about because you may never do it!
3. Stick to your routine.
The short, cold days of winter make it tempting to stay inside and bundle up, but you’ll feel better if you stick to your routine. Keep doing your outdoor workout, even if you need to layer up. Keep getting up at your regular time, even though your cozy bed is so inviting.
Again, we understand the desire to curl up inside all season long, but exercise is an effective way to reverse mild depression. Three to four vigorous workouts per week can make a difference, according to multiple studies. Exercise under bright lights to reap even more benefits from every workout!
5. Keep at your favorite hobbies or find a new one.
Doing activities you enjoy keeps your mind active and gives you something to look forward to and concentrate on. Keeping up with those things that you love and make you happy will surely ward off winter sadness.
Being cold makes you more depressed, and research has actually shown that staying warm can reduce winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and food, warm clothes and shoes, and a home temperature between 64F and 70F degrees.
Stop obsessing about how you hate winter and the cold, which will only make you feel sad as the season progresses, according to Rohan. Light some candles or a fire, put on some tunes, and invite some friends over for hot cocoa. (And you can always sit in your massage chair to relax and de-stress!)
7. Brighten up your space.
Open up the blinds and curtains, trim back tree branches, and sit closer to the windows to bask in the sunshine! Even sitting next to an artificial light (a.k.a. a light box) for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as antidepressant medication.
Certain foods, like chocolate can help boost your mood and relieve anxiety. Others, like candy and carbohydrates, provide temporary comfort and happiness, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
9. Listen to music.
A 2013 study showed that listening to upbeat, cheery music significantly improved participants’ mood in both the short and long term.
10. Lend a hand.
Volunteering at the soup kitchen or other local community organization can improve mental health and life satisfaction.
Make yourself get outside, even when it’s chilly, and especially on bright days! The sunlight and fresh air will help improve your focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
Do you have any tips of your own when it comes to warding off the seasonal depression? Share them with us here!