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Try These Tips to Ward Off Winter Blues

Try These Tips to Ward Off Winter Blues

If colder weather has you feeling down, try these ideas to boost your mood.

Sometimes, when the temperatures drop and days grow shorter, the blues seep in. Feeling down in the winter is common, especially once the hubbub of the holidays is over. It’s believed that between 10 and 20 percent of Americans may have mild symptoms linked to the change in season, like sadness and lethargy. These feelings are usually temporary and go away on their own fairly quickly. While you’re waiting, there are steps you can take to keep your spirits up

How to help banish the blues
First things first: Head outside. A brisk midday walk or lunch in your backyard can improve your mood. When you can’t get outdoors, bring sunlight in. At home or the office, keep shades open and park yourself by a window. Remove obstacles that block light from shining through, whether it’s furniture or foliage. Position mirrors to reflect sunrays or paint your home in light colors. 

Winter sadness often saps your motivation to socialize, but spending time with other people can be a powerful mood lifter, as well. Make the effort to see friends and family, whether it’s a one-on-one dinner or a holiday gathering. Take up a hobby, volunteer or try activities where you can meet new people. Sports or fitness classes are ideal, since regular exercise is a great pick-me-up in itself; physical activity boosts feel-good chemicals in your brain.

In general, it’s a good idea to practice healthy habits:

  • Eat right. Instead of overdoing simple carbohydrates like pasta and chips, eat a wholesome diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. It can help maintain your weight and amp up your energy. 
  • Get enough rest. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours nightly for most adults.
  • Manage your stress. Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and tai chi can ease worries and stave off low moods.

Finally, if your schedule and budget allow, take a warm, sunny vacation. There are few better pick-me-ups than spending a week on a beach in February.

When to seek help
It’s natural to feel blue sometimes during the winter. But it’s important to know the difference between mild, temporary gloom and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of clinical depression that occurs when the seasons change. SAD is a serious mental health condition that should be treated by a healthcare provider (HCP). If your depression lasts more than two weeks and messes with your day-to-day function, reach out to an HCP or counselor. 

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

Sources:
National Institute of Health: News in Health. “Beat the Winter Blues.”
Villanova University. “Winter Blues/Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
National Health Service (UK). “Beating the Winter Blues.”
Mayo Clinic. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”
HelpGuide.org. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).”
MedlinePlus. “Learn to manage stress.”
National Institute of Mental Health. “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

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