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It happens every year. As the days get shorter and nights longer, your mood changes. You start to feel down for no apparent reason and you just can’t seem to shake it off.
Starting around mid-fall and lasting right through winter, the lack of sunlight and cold, dark days can trigger the winter blues.
Before discussing how to beat the winter blues, it helps to understand what causes it and how it is different from SAD.
What Are the Winter Blues? Is It a Real Thing?
The winter blues refer to that ‘blah’ lethargic feeling you experience during fall and winter.
Some people may dismiss the winter blues as not real and that the symptoms are ‘all in the head’. That’s not true. The winter blues are a real thing.
Millions of people in cold countries experience the symptoms of winter blues every year as the fall season progresses.
These symptoms start off mild around mid-Autumn. They get progressively more severe as the days get darker and colder, persisting right through winter. The severity of the symptoms only starts to lessen as the days start to get longer with the onset of spring.
If your symptoms are mild, you may not even know you’re experiencing the winter blues. You just know that you feel extra sad during the fall and winter seasons but are not quite sure why.
Symptoms of The Winter Blues
Fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, social withdrawal, and irritability are the main symptoms associated with the winter blues.
That constant pervasive feeling of unhappiness without any rhyme or reason can be unsettling. It drains your energy and leaves you feeling exhausted all the time.
Ultimately, it hampers your ability to get things done and can spiral into depression.
There are varying degrees to how strongly you may experience the symptoms of winter blues. It can run the spectrum from mildly anxious and lethargy to acute anxiety and exhaustion.
No matter how mild or severe your symptoms are, having the winter blues can ruin the season for you. It can lead to various fallouts from difficulty focusing on work or school assignments to relationship issues.
What Causes The Winter Blues?
The specific cause remains unproven but there are a few factors that may come into play. Lack of sunshine is one of the primary factors. During winter, the sky is dark, the air is cold, and you just don’t get as much sunshine as you need.
Getting adequate exposure is important for several reasons. Sunlight increases the production of serotonin, which is a mood-boosting hormone. It also helps to regulate your circadian rhythm or your biological clock.
When you don’t get enough sunlight exposure, serotonin levels drop, causing fatigue, sadness, and feelings of depression. Lack of sunlight also disrupts your body’s internal clock, resulting in the onset of SAD symptoms.
The change in season and lack of sunlight also disrupt the body’s melatonin levels, resulting in insomnia and consequently fatigue and moodiness.
Read a more detailed explanation of what is seasonal affective disorder: symptoms and causes
Not everybody experiences the winter blues but those who do usually experience it every year as autumn progresses.
Here are some things you can do to beat the winter blues naturally and go on to enjoy the season.
22 Things You Can Do To Beat The Winter Blues
1. Maximize Exposure to Natural Light
Shorter sunlight hours in fall are the single biggest factor that causes the winter blues. The only way to counteract this effect is to try and maximize your exposure to natural light in any way you can.
Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, especially in those rooms where the sun comes in. Plan your schedule so you can spend some time – whether working or reading – in an area of your home where the sun streams in.
Consider taking walks outside during daylight hours to soak up vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight is vital for good health. Sunlight plays a crucial role in regulating mood, combating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and beating the winter blues.
Remember to always use sunscreen even in winter when spending time outdoors in the sun. Studies have shown that the sun’s rays can pierce through clouds and fog and still burn your skin even on those dull days.
2. Use The Power Of Light Therapy
During peak winter months, when the sun stays hidden for weeks on end, using light therapy can help combat the effects of reduced sunlight exposure.
Light therapy involves using a special light box that’s designed to emit bright artificial light that mimics the natural light of the sun. This can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood elevation.
By exposing yourself to the lightbox for a specific duration each day, typically in the morning, you can alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and improve your overall well-being.
Light therapy is a safe and effective method to supplement the lack of sunlight during the winter months, providing a valuable source of light that can uplift your mood and energy levels.
Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if light therapy is suitable for you.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is important throughout the year but more so in winter.
This is typically the season when we tend to lean toward junk food and desserts. The urge to indulge in comfort foods and emotional eating becomes even stronger when you’re feeling down but giving in can only exacerbate things.
Lack of nutrition can make you more susceptible to colds and flu, which are rampant this season. Getting sick and being forced to stay in bed is sure to worsen those already dreaded symptoms.
The key is to take small steps each day to improve your diet. When you are feeling happy and in a better place, focus on eating only healthy foods.
It’s always best to lean towards seasonal produce to get the maximum benefits. Think pumpkin, kale, brussels sprouts, apples, and pumpkin during fall. And broccoli, carrots, beets, winter squash, and pomegranates.
These seasonal superfoods are packed with ingredients that boost your immune system during cold and flu season. Staying healthy and resilient forms a solid foundation for beating the winter blues.
4. Stay Active and Exercise Regularly
Engaging in regular physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. Several studies show that exercise can do much to alleviate depression.
Even a short walk outdoors can significantly improve your mood and energy levels. Kill two birds with one stroke by timing out outdoor walks during sunshine hours. Aim to walk at least twenty to thirty minutes a day.
This is the time to indulge in your favorite winter sport. Get your gear out of the garage and make time for your winter sport of choice at least once every two weeks or more often if you can.
If going outdoors is not an option, there are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of exercise indoors. Dance to your favorite music. Do yoga or simple stretches.
5. Create a Cozy Home Environment
Make your home a sanctuary by adding cozy elements such as warm blankets, soft lighting, scented candles, and comfortable furniture. Surrounding yourself with a pleasant atmosphere can promote relaxation and comfort.
Use one or more of these hygge ideas for fall to create a cozy, uplifting environment in your home during this season.
6. Add a Splash of Color to Your Home
Adding splashes of color to your indoor décor is the easiest way to create a cheerful ambiance. When you’re spending most of your time indoors, this can make a huge difference.
Color has been proven to affect mood. Cheerful colors like yellow, orange, and purple can dispel the blues and uplift your mood. Bright blues and greens can transform your room into a lively tropical paradise.
You don’t have to go wild and paint your entire home. Little things make a big difference. Colorful throw pillows or a colorful area rug to a room add an instant punch of color to any room. Hang colorful pictures on the walls. Light colorful candles. Surround yourself with color and cheer.
7. Use Aromatherapy to Battle the Blues
Bergamot, Lemon, Lavender, Cedarwood, Grapefruit, Ylang Ylang, Peppermint, Rose, and Sweet Orange are the best mood-boosting essential oils. Inhaling the aromas can uplift your mood or help you calm down, depending on which essential oil you diffuse.
The citrusy scents of Lemon, Bergamot, Grapefruit, and Sweet Orange elevate mood and awaken the senses.
Jasmine, Rose, Lavender induce a state of calm and relaxation.
These essential oils and blends are popular during fall but remember, you’re not limited to using only these. Experiment with scents using different essential oil blend recipes to find which works best for you.
8. Stay Close to Family
Maintain strong connections with friends and family by organizing get-togethers when possible or virtual hangouts if meeting personally is not an option.
Socializing can boost your mood and create a sense of belonging and support during the winter months.
Most gatherings are centered on three things – music, fun, and food. It can be difficult to stay depressed the vibe is upbeat and you’re surrounded by delicious food, great music, and laughter.
Socializing has been proven to release happy hormones that elevate mood and alleviate stress.
9. Practice Self-Care and Relaxation Techniques
Engage in activities that promote self-care and relaxation. From soaking in warm sudsy baths to getting a regular massage, practicing yoga, or meditating, self-care can take different forms for different people.
Whatever form of self-care helps you relax, find time to indulge in it. Simply taking a few moments to focus on yourself and cultivate a sense of inner peace can counteract the winter blues.
Prioritizing self-care is more important than many of us realize.
10. Practice Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are a great way to lift your spirits during the wintertime and all year round too!
Affirmations are mantras that help you rewrite your thoughts and focus on the good. The benefits of using daily positive affirmations include increased self-esteem and confidence, more optimism, and so much more.
Use these powerful winter affirmations to help you beat the winter blues:
● I can and will get through this hard time
● This will not last forever
● I am allowed to rest and recharge
● I will find joy in today
● My feelings are valid
● My needs are important
● I am not alone
● I am loved
Make some of your own affirmation cards and stick them up on your bathroom mirror. Repeat them every time you see them for added strength during those times when you’re really struggling.
11. Get Enough Sleep
Researchers have found a definitive link between sleep and depression. During the winter months when depression is prevalent, it’s even more important to get quality sleep.
A good night’s sleep is vital for your mental and physical health. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to feel refreshed and ready to take on the day.
It’s important to note that too much sleep is common during wintertime and is not good for you. If you take naps during the day whenever you feel lethargic, you’re more likely to struggle to sleep at night. This can create an unhealthy cycle and worsen your SAD symptoms.
If you’re struggling with the winter blues, simply modifying your sleeping habits can make a world of difference.
12. Establish a Good Morning Routine
When you establish a good morning routine, your entire day will feel so much more positive.
Spending those first few minutes after you wake up on these activities is better for your mental health instead of reaching for your phone.
● Meditate for a few minutes
● Practice gratitude
● Write in your journal
● Do some yoga
● Take a shower and get ready for the day
Get some ideas for a cozy fall morning routine that you’ll love waking up to.
13. Get Out of Your Night Clothes & Get Dressed For The Day
This may seem silly, but getting out of your pajamas and dressing for the day is so important for your mental health.
It’s tempting to want to stay in your warm and cozy pajamas all day long if you work from home. But our minds associate pajamas with rest and sleep. Attempting to work while in your sleep attire can be a struggle and you’ll get exhausted very quickly.
Also, wearing different clothes every day will prevent your days from blending into one another and will lift your spirits. You’ll notice the difference!
14. Stay Warm
When you’re too cold, your body expends a lot of energy trying to keep you warm, resulting in low energy levels. This can leave you feeling listless, unenergetic, and not wanting to do anything.
Over time, those SAD symptoms will start to feel even worse. To prevent this, layer up to stay warm or turn up the heater on those days when the temperature drops too low.
15. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is crucial regardless of the season.
Proper hydration helps combat fatigue and keeps your body functioning optimally, allowing you to tackle the winter blues with vitality.
Try to drink even more water during the cold seasons to stay energized. When you’re dehydrated, it’s hard to get anything done, which only makes your winter blues much worse.
Find lots of tips to stay hydrated throughout the day. And when you feel you just drink any more water, here are a few ways to stay hydrated without drinking water. Although written with summer in mind, these tips are applicable for any time of the year. No excuses!
16. Explore New Hobbies and Interests
Winter is a perfect time to discover new hobbies and interests. Whether it’s experimenting with different types of photography, learning a new language or dabbling in different forms of art, engaging in new activities can provide a sense of fulfillment and excitement.
You might find a new passion that will excite you and give you the motivation to do something during your day!
If you enjoy DIY projects, you’ll find plenty of ideas for things to do with essential oils and herbs. You can make skin and lip scrubs, bath bombs and bath salts, reed diffusers, and even beeswax candles with essential oils. Use them as part of your winter self-care routine or give them away as gifts.
17. Serve Others Through Volunteering
Contributing to the well-being of others can bring immense satisfaction and joy.
Volunteering or serving others will give you a different perspective and help you look at others instead of focusing only on yourself. When you have a balance between serving others and taking care of yourself, you will feel better mentally.
Look for local volunteer opportunities or find ways to give back to your community during the winter months.
19. Listen to Uplifting Music
Music has a powerful impact on our emotions. Create a playlist of uplifting songs that resonate with you, and let the melodies boost your mood and motivation.
Find music that speaks to you and makes you want to get up and dance!
20. Read Inspirational Books
Expand your horizons by diving into inspiring books that motivate and uplift you. Whether it’s self-help literature, biographies, or fiction, reading can transport you to different worlds and ignite your imagination.
Pro-tip: Use this link to try Amazon Audible free for one month. You can listen to thousands of audiobooks and podcasts during the trial period and cancel at any time.
21. Watch Feel-Good Movies and TV Shows
Snuggle up on the couch and indulge in feel-good movies and TV shows that make you laugh or warm your heart. This simple activity can instantly lift your spirits.
22. Take Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating mood and supporting overall well-being.
The sun is the main element that our bodies need to produce Vitamin D naturally. During fall and winter, vitamin D levels drop below optimum levels because of the lack of sunlight exposure during these months. This is what triggers the symptoms of the winter blues.
When your body does not get enough vitamin D from natural sources, taking natural supplements may help your body adjust to the change. Always consult with a healthcare professional about taking any supplements.
No single strategy mentioned above can help you beat the winter blues when used by itself. You must combine multiple strategies to overcome the blue symptoms and embrace the season with a positive mindset.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.