The winter blues — otherwise known as seasonal depression — is more common than you think. If the winter blues begin to overtake you, you should:

1. Brighten your environment

Your body naturally craves more sunlight during winter months. Sitting by a light box for at least a half hour per day can be just as effective as taking antidepressants. Also, you should open your curtains and sit closer to windows to get an extra boost of sunshine.

2. Eat better

Certain foods — chocolate, whole grains, raw almonds — can boost your mood and reduce anxiety. Other foods, such as refined sweets and simple carbohydrates, actually increase feelings of depression. Remember to eat a well-balanced diet rich in vital nutrients, including ample vitamin D.

3. Get checked for seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

A type of depression that begins in early winter and lifts as the weather improves, SAD includes such symptoms as depression, irritability, and lethargy accompanied by difficulty falling and staying asleep. Many people also have trouble waking up, especially when it’s still dark outside. A dawn simulator can make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. It causes the lights in your room to gradually brighten over a period of time.

4. Exercise regularly

Research suggests that walking at least a half an hour per day, five times a week can help improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Even better, exercising under bright lights can help to alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression, resulting in improved mental health, social functioning, and vitality. Hit the gym or get outside several times a week.

5. Listen to music

Studies have shown that listening to music you find upbeat or cheerful can improve your mood in both the short and long term. So grab your mp3 player and take it with you everywhere you go.

6. Take a vacation

Sometimes a temporary change in scenery can make you feel better. And if you can’t escape right away, just the simple act of planning a vacation, research has shown, can result in a significant increase in overall happiness.

7. Volunteer

Did you know that volunteering your time can improve your mental health and life satisfaction? Check out and support causes you truly care about.

New call-to-action

Eat right to feel light

Mood-boosting foods can work wonders when it comes to busting winter blah’s. You should eat plenty of:

Fruit and vegetables

Those who eat a diet rich in whole foods are less likely to report feeling down. In fact, the antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables are associated with lower risk of depression. What’s more, folate — a B vitamin found in beans, citrus, and dark green vegetables — affects neurotransmitters that impact mood.

Fish

Oily, fatty fish are rich in mood-boosting omega-3s, which have been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are linked with depression, aggression, and suicidal ideation.

Saffron

As effective as antidepressant medications in alleviating symptoms of depression, the spice saffron boosts serotonin levels, which increase those good feelings.

Coconut

Research has shown that people who smell coconut have lower stress levels. This is because inhaling a pleasant scent helps to sooth their response to stress.

Tea

If you’re feeling tired and foggy, caffeinated black, green, or oolong tea helps to make you more alert. This is because theanine, a natural amino acid found in all three teas, works with caffeine to improve attention and focus. You’ll need to drink six cups of tea daily to reap the benefits.

Chocolate

The antioxidants found in dark chocolate can help to reduce stress and anxiety. You should aim to eat 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate per day to reap these benefits.

Complex carbs

Complex carbs help to boost feel-good neurotransmitters, reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, complex carbs promote the production of serotonin, which helps to alleviate depression.

Freeze winter blues in its tracks

During the colder months you might feel more tired than usual and maybe anxious or moody. What’s more, you may crave high-sugar, high-carb foods. A lot of these unpleasant symptoms are caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight. But there are some simple things you can do to lighten your mood.

References

  1. "10 Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues,"Psychology Today, November 25, 2009.
  2. "10 Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues," Oprah.com, October 28, 2009.
  3. "Four Simple Steps to Beating the Holiday Blues," CNN.com, December 22, 2015.
  4. "How to Deal with Stress and Depression During the Holidays," Healthline, April 20, 2016.

depression | light therapy | mental health | psychology | SAD | winter blues