Short days, dark nights, cold, wet weather: The winter can be a real drag for a lot of people out there. Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD) is a thing, so if you find yourself battling the winter blues, know you're in good company.
While professional help should always be on the table, there are things you can do to help beat back the seasonal sads.
Start by getting out of the house. The most motivating way to do that is to meet up with friends and socialize. There's nothing that brightens the dark days like laughing with people who make you feel good.
Exercise is the all-around solution for just about everything, and holding the winter blues at bay is no exception. Find a way to get in a workout most days of the winter. Take a high-intensity workout class or join in the kettle ball craze. Start dancing again, go for a run if you can. Whatever gets you out and moving, so the happy-making endorphins kick in.
Though SAD is connected to the season of cold and darkness, it may also bring up underlying issues you need to deal with. If you find yourself feeling unmotivated and sad this winter, schedule an appointment with a therapist for a check-in. Make sure the depression truly is triggered by the season and not something else.
Wake Up Early
The key to getting through winter without going through the doldrums is to maximize the amount of natural sunlight you're exposed to. Don't waste the first morning rays hidden deep in your covers. Instead, set an alarm and get up with the sunrise.
Yes, it's cold. Yes, it's still a little dark. But every minute of sun counts.
Getting up early also means you can go to bed early, which is often a relief since it gets dark so soon. You'll still get all eight or more hours of sleep (whatever you need). Being well-rested is another way to survive and minimize the winter blues.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy body and avoiding depression. One way to get more vitamin D is to get out in the sun. You can also get the recommended daily amount by eating foods rich in vitamin D, like salmon and tuna.
Sure, it looks goofy walking around with a special headlamp on, but light therapy actually works. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for one. And set up plenty of lamps and lights around your living space.
Brighten Your Rooms
Do whatever you can to brighten your rooms with natural light. Open shutters and curtains, or switch to sheers in the winter months. Paint walls white. Pick up soft, white pillow covers and throw blankets. Bring all the brightness you can into the rooms where you spend the most time.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Look, alcohol is a depressant, and people who get the winter blues don't need help feeling slow and sad. Switch to non-alcoholic drinks or commit to drinking less. Let your friends know and meet up with them at the movies or gym—places where drinking isn't expected. It doesn't have to be forever, just long enough to get you through to spring.
Cut back on caffeine
Even though caffeine is a stimulant, it can leave you feeling lethargic after the initial kick wears off. This isn't a problem, unless you're feeling depressed.
Cut back on the amount of coffee you drink (limit it to one cup in the morning). Drink tea or water through the day. Settle in with a cup of hot cocoa at night.
People who swear by essential oils insist that they can be mood changers. Winter is a better time than any to give it a try. Citrus scents brighten the mood, while peppermint helps with concentration.
Set up diffusers or put a few drops of high-quality oils on pillow cases or in the rinse cycle of the laundry. Mix some drops with purified water and spray on sofas, chairs, mattresses and curtains. If it doesn't manage to pick up your mood, at least everything will smell nice until you can open windows again in the spring.
Shivering and feeling miserable can really dampen a mood. Make sure you have ways to keep yourself warm in the winter. Dress appropriately for the weather. Bundle up with lined boots, hats, gloves and a good, waterproof coat.
Keep cozy throws around the house. Stock your dresser with chunky knit socks and fleece joggers or leggings. Invest in a safe space heater, if layering isn't enough.
Indulge Your Hobby
It's harder to get out of the house in the winter, but that doesn't mean you should spend night after night bingeing on Netflix. These cold, dark months are the perfect time to pick up or revisit a hobby.
Baking and decorating cakes and cookies warms up the house with your oven. But you could also use the time to teach yourself coding, sew new curtains or write—whatever makes you happy and gets you excited!
If you didn't plan your winter beach trip back in the fall, go to discount travel sites and book something for mid-winter. Knowing a tropical trip is coming up will be something to look forward to. A weekend in the hot sun, floating in a pool or walking on the beach will be just what you need to get through the home stretch of winter.
Listen to Music
Turn up the volume on the tunes that make you happy. Load up your device with all the songs that bring you joy and listen however much you can. Impromptu dance parties (even if you're alone!) might also brighten a dark night.
Good, dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants and is a natural mood booster. So, stock up and indulge. One square every night is enough. But you know what? It's winter. Eat the whole bar once in a while, if you must.
Cut out carbs
Beating back the winter blues is all about steady moods. Spiking your sugar levels by eating refined carbs and lots of sugar will only lead to the crash and inevitable lows that come with it.
Increase your fat intake while lowering the amount of carbs you eat, and you'll find you're not as hungry, not as moody and your pants might even fit a little better. Plus, you'll have more energy—which is also a great way to brighten your mood.