If you’re trying to figure out how to beat the winter blues, you’ve come to the right place!
The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and rolling out of warm sheets in the morning is getting harder each day. AM I RIGHT?! It’s almost winter, guys, and if you’re feeling down in the dumps, you’re definitely not alone. Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter blues is a real thing. For some, it’s much more intense than for others, but feelings of low energy and mild depression are pretty common when the season hits. Don’t worry, even the happiest of us feel blue come wintertime. Luckily, there are great ways to beat winter depression and embrace the season to the fullest!
Don’t let your lack of motivation hinder you; make sure to exercise and socialize as much as you can. But also take time to relax! Reading your favourite book, listening to upbeat tunes and taking a calming yoga class are all things you should kick up come wintertime. Read on for out best tips to teach you how to beat the winter blues!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Also (appropriately) known as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression caused by seasonal changes. SAD tends to begin and end at the same times each year, typically starting in fall and continuing through winter. SAD can also cause depression in spring and/or early summer, although this is less common.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to be caused by changes in the amount of sunlight we’re exposed to in the colder weather months, which can negatively impact our circadian rhythm and disrupt proper neurotransmitter functions. Women tend to be more prone to SAD than men, and those who have a family history of SAD and/or other forms of depression tend to be at greater risk.
Some of the common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:
- Feelings of sadness and depression
- Decreased energy
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Increase appetite and food cravings (typically carbohydrates)
- Weight gain
- Changes in sleep patterns (often sleeping more than usual)
- Difficulty concentrating
Seasonal Affective Disorder vs. The Winter Blues
If you notice a decrease in your mood and energy levels during the cold weather months, you may be wondering if you have a case of the ‘winter blues’, or if you’re suffering from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder. While the symptoms can be quite similar, Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to be more chronic and severe. SAD goes beyond skipping the occasional evening spin class in favor of curling up on the couch, reaching for carb-heavy foods over salads, or getting annoyed at the prospect of shovelling snow for the third time in one week. The symptoms are much more exaggerated and extreme, and can make it harder to participate in activities and enjoy time with family and friends.
How to Beat the Winter Blues
Whether you’re experiencing mild mood changes and decreased energy levels, or you’re struggling with more significant feelings of sadness and depression due to the weather, these tips and ideas have been shown to help.
When the workday is done and it’s already dark outside, it can be tempting to stay at home and skip the gym. But exercising increases your endorphins and boosts your mood, curbing winter blues. If you want to know how to beat the winter blues, pack your gym bag in the morning so you can go straight from work, or go on your lunch break if that works better for you. Group classes are also super motivating, so consider working some of those into your weekly routine.
2) Lighten up your life
Since it’s usually dark when we wake up and dark before dinnertime, the amount of sunlight we see can be minimal. This can definitely contribute to the winter blues as sunlight improves our mood. Try to spend more time outdoors, open blinds and curtains when you can, and pop vitamin D on the daily. If that doesn’t do the trick, talk to your doctor about investing in a SAD lamp – an artificial mood light that supposedly helps you wake up and makes you happier throughout the day.
3) Eat a nutritious diet
While some foods are packed with punch, others zap your energy levels. If you want to know how to beat the winter blues, stay away from refined and processed foods (white breads, sugar, etc.) and eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat breads, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. These foods have a positive effect on your mood and energy levels and provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Oh, and you might be interested to note that dark chocolate has been shown to improve mood, so you can indulge in a little Hershey’s goodness without the guilt!
4) Practice daily gratitude
Another one of my favorite tips for those who want to know how to beat the winter blues is to take a few minutes each morning to write down 5 things you’re grateful for. These don’t need to be huge, but you do need to be intentional as you think through and write down the items you’re most thankful for. Your morning cup of coffee, the extra snuggles you enjoyed with your kids, or an upcoming date night with your significant other are all examples of small but meaningful things that can add a huge amount of joy to your life. Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one of my favorite ways to stay positive and motivated as it takes very little time but can make a huge difference in setting the right tone for the day ahead.
5) Crank the tunes
Wake up and put on your favourite upbeat music. This has been shown to put us in a better mood throughout the day and in the long run as well. And really, what could be better than getting ready to cheery music?
6) Get social
One of the worst things you can do when you’re feeling down is stay home and wallow in your down-ness. Plan regular date nights with your significant other, get together with your family, friends, or co-workers for a fun activity, organize a daily or weekly call with your BFF, or simply take yourself to your local coffee shop so you’re among people. Socializing with others can give you the pick-me-up you need.
7) Take up a winter sport or hobby
Getting into a winter sport, like skating, skiing, or snow shoeing will give you something to enjoy and look forward to during the winter months, and will also get you outside so you can soak up some vitamin D. Of course, not everyone can participate in outdoor sports such as this (and not all of us enjoy the cold!), but there are other winter hobbies to consider. Teach yourself to knit and make scarves and gloves to donate to a charity close to your heart, take up photography and capture the beautiful scenery we take for granted throughout the season, create winterlicious recipes to enjoy with family and friends, etc.
8) Treat yourself
Retail therapy; it’s too real. When you’re feeling blue, sometimes a little treat for yourself can put you in a better mood. Whether it’s something small like your favourite holiday-flavoured latte, or that cashmere sweater you’ve been eyeing for months, make sure to treat yourself sometimes!
9) Relax and prioritize self-care
The cold weather months can get a little crazy, especially around the holidays, so make sure you find time to relax doing something you enjoy. Read your favourite book, take a long bath, or try some meditations. Yoga is a great option as it can reduce stress and anxiety, making you feel relaxed and calm. Plus, you get your exercise in as well, so it does double duty on wintertime blues. If you’re looking for more self-care ideas, we’ve shared 21 simple ideas anyone can find time for HERE.
Feelings of low energy and mild depression are pretty common when the season hits, but if you’re really struggling with feelings of sadness and depression, decreased energy levels, and find it difficult to enjoy activities that typically interest you, make sure to speak with your doctor as you may benefit from additional treatment.