Though it’s approaching a merry time of year, the winter months can be tough.
Shorter days and the colder weather of winter can lead to seasonal depression, also known as the “winter blues” or “SAD”, which can cause feelings of sadness and low energy levels.
Seasonal depression typically makes people feel extreme fatigue, listlessness, and can even cause individuals to lose interest in activities they love.
If you’re feeling low during the short winter days, there are things you can do to help boost your mood and avoid a sad winter.
Tips for Combating Sad Winter Feelings
So how can you beat the winter blues? Here are a few tips:
Get Out in Nature
Spending time outdoors can help improve your mood and make you feel more connected to the world around you.
Consider going for a walk in the park, hiking in the woods, or simply getting fresh air in your own backyard.
Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.
A regular workout routine can help you combat depression, anxiety, and stress, all while keeping your energy levels up.
Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, three to five times a week.
Here are our 10 favourite easy, everyday exercises to get you started!
Make Time for Social Activities
Isolation and loneliness can make seasonal depression worse, so it’s important to make time for social activities.
Getting together with friends and loved ones can help chase away the blues. Make plans to get together with people you enjoy being around, whether it’s for a cup of coffee or a night out on the town.
Additionally, you could build connections with new faces by joining a club in your community.
Use a Light Therapy Box
If accessing natural light is not an option for you, light therapy boxes may be a good solution.
Light therapy involves exposure to bright artificial light that imitates the sun, which may help improve mood and energy levels in people with SAD.
The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine advises that light box users start with 30 minutes of light exposure per day in the early morning, as soon as possible after awakening (between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.).
If you think you might benefit from light therapy, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Sad winter feelings can lead to unhealthy eating habits, so it’s important to take care of yourself by maintaining a healthy diet.
Limiting refined sugar and increasing your “real food” intake (fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats) increases energy and improves overall mood.
Get Enough Sleep
In addition to contributing to tiredness, lack of sleep can increase anxiety and depression.
The Sleep Foundation recommends keeping a regular bedtime and wake time to allow for a consistent 7-9 hours of sleep. They also state that establishing a nighttime routine (putting electronics away, reading a book, etc) will provide a signal to your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep.
Finding ways to limit stressors is a great way to boost your mood when the days are shorter.
Balance the time you spend with others with time you need to unwind. Try not to overbook yourself with too many commitments. Use apps to practice deep-breathing and calm, guided meditations.
Supplement with Vitamin D
Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is produced in the body in response to exposure to sunlight.
Health Canada recommends that Canadians take a daily supplement containing 400 IU (10 µg) of vitamin D, but especially in the winter given that there is less sunlight.
Seasonal depression is a real phenomenon that can affect people during the winter months, but you don’t have to let it keep you down.
There are plenty of things you can do to combat winter blues and make the most of the winter months.
By getting out in nature, exercising regularly, taking care of yourself, and enjoying the company of others, you can minimize the effects of the winter blues and stay happy all season long!