10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
There are many ways to beat the winter blues and these 10 tips are a great place to start. The short, gray days of winter are a struggle for many, including me. I have self-diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. SAD (fitting acronym, right?) The milder version may also be referred to as the winter blues. Which is probably more accurate for my condition.
The Mayo Clinic describes SAD as a type of depression that relates to a change in season. The most common is my experience, starting in fall and going into the winter. However, it can affect some the opposite way of starting in spring and going into summer.
The Symptoms for SAD or Winter Blues include:
- Feeling depressed
- Losing interest in activities and wanting to socially withdraw, or hibernate
- Low energy
- Problems sleeping – mostly oversleeping
- Appetite change and weight gain – especially craving carbs
- Moody, sluggish and agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme SAD can also include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and even lead to thoughts of death or suicide.
For extreme SAD symptoms, please get immediate help!
I don’t share this information lightly. If you or someone you love is suffering from these extreme symptoms, please get help from your mental health counselor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
My Struggle with the Winter Blues
I am a girl who loves the sunshine! I crave it.
My mood starts declining mid-fall when the gold and red foliage falls to the ground and disappears, only to be replaced with what I consider every shade of gray. Thank goodness for the evergreen cedar and pine trees to leave a little bit of green.
The days slowly start getting shorter. Then, the time changes and there is literally no daylight left when I leave my office to go home. It causes me to be sluggish and unmotivated. I get home and don’t feel like doing anything productive besides waste time scrolling or watching TV in my warmest clothes.
It sucks. It’s depressing. I hate it. My attitude reflects it.
The holidays help. Christmas brings twinkly lights and bright colors, but once the calendar turns over to January and February, I begin riding the struggle bus.
I am also not a fan of cold weather, except on days when I can stay home in my cozy clothes under a blanket. However, I have learned to lean into the clear days when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. It helps my mood immensely, even when I’m freezing to death! I have gathered some ways to beat the winter blues.
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I have to Create my Own Sunshine During the Gray Days of Winter
- Sunlight Therapy – I don’t know why I waited so long to try this. I have a friend who has been encouraging me to get one for awhile. Another online friend posted about getting a sunlight therapy lamp and loving it, so I took the plunge. I honestly didn’t realize how affordable they were until I started searching Amazon. I typically look at reviews and although the one I purchased last winter is no longer available, this Erligpowht Lux Therapy Light is similar in features and price. However, I may try this compact version for my desk at work.
Another lighting trick is to leave up some twinkle lights through the winter months. I actually keep a string of Edison lights strung up year round in the cottage.
- Fresh cut flowers – There is nothing like fresh cut flowers to brighten up a dark space. I have learned that I can buy my own flowers and it is one of the best ways to spend $10 or $15 on myself. It’s even better when I walk in Kroger and they have fresh flowers on mark down. It feels like a double win!
Keep some pretty vases on hand and add fresh flowers to your environment.
- Beach music – I made a Beach Tunes playlist several years ago to have for a beach trip with my friend. Music is such a mood maker for me and I can instantly be swept away to another place and time with particular songs.
Try a little Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney, or Bob Marley next time you need a taste of summer. There are plenty of playlists to be had for your particular genre.
- Vacation or Adventure Planning – There is nothing like having something to look forward to on my calendar. As an Enneagram 7, I almost always have to have the next thing to look forward to or it makes me sad anytime of year! January and February is a great time to begin planning a spring or summer trip. I realize it is even more challenging during a pandemic when travel is limited.
Consider hiking or camping when spring begins.
- Wear Bright Colors – Winter clothing can be drab. I have plenty of black, gray, and dark neutrals in my closet. However, I have added some bright colors to my winter wardrobe to help brighten my mood during the gray days.
- Fresh haircut and color – I don’t know about you, but when I visit my stylist for a fresh cut and color, I instantly feel better. It might be the perfect time to try something different. There are so many options with semi-permanent color. Now might be the time to try something fun with our hair.
A little hot pink streak that will wash out after a few washes could be just the thing to pull us out of a funk!
- Create Something – For me watercolors, an acrylic canvas, or just doodling in my art journal can lift my mood. I actually have a beach scene that I painted a few years ago during one of my “art days” with friends that I will display in my bathroom so I can see it when I get ready in the mornings. Not only does it make me happy to see the beach, but it causes me recall fond memories of time with friends.
Find your own creative outlet: crocheting, knitting, cooking, writing. We all need a creative hobby.
- Spend time with people who lift you up – Speaking of time with friends, plan a lunch or coffee date with someone who makes you feel better. We all have people in our lives who lift us up. Reach out to them and plan a date of some kind.
Whether it is art day like my friends and I do, or just getting together to share a cup or coffee or lunch, spending time with positive people always lifts my mood.
- Move your body – I struggle to do this during the winter months, but I always feel better after a workout of some kind. I will bundle up for a walk – the fresh air is so good for our moods or I will practice yoga. However, I must say a good, sweaty cardio session is the best cure to instantly warm up, get the blood pumping, and lift my mood.
Force it! I promise, it works.
- Gratitude – If you have read any of my other blog posts about bullet journaling, habit forming , or turning around a bad mood in general, you know already that I am big on gratitude. I believe if we can find more to be thankful for in each day, we will become more positive overall.
I personally believe we have to give thanks to God for our blessings big and small each day. When I’m in a lack-of-sunshine-gray-day-winter-blues spiral, I can read back through my daily gratitude journaling and instantly be lifted. Try it!
BONUS SUNSHINE: Vitamin D
Always consult your trusted medical professional and do your own research, but getting Vitamin D is crucial for our health. Consider taking a supplement during the shorter days when sunshine is not available to you. Here is a great article from the National Institute of Health regarding vitamin D.
However, I can think of many other ways that I have personally lifted my own mood by bringing sunshine into my space through scents, foods, rest, movies, and self-care.
Seasonal depression is no joke. We all need sunshine. Wintertime can be difficult for many, especially in our current state of being in a pandemic and perhaps not able to get out and socialize.
Check on your friends and loved ones during winter. Share some of these strategies with them. If you are suffering heavily, please seek help from your doctor.