8 Ways to Bust the Winter Blahs

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For many people, cold weather and a lack of sunshine can bring on a mild depression known as the ''winter blues.'' People that experience the ''winter blues'' will generally lack motivation and energy. Others may even develop a clinical depression in the form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). 
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is ''a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.'' Those that experience SAD may produce too much melatonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep and body temperature. Producing too much melatonin disrupts the body's internal clock and may then cause depression, as seen with SAD sufferers.
Some of the signs of SAD may include the following:
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Cravings for sweet and starchy foods
  • Oversleeping
If you have any symptoms of SAD, there are ways to help prevent them from continuing or getting worse. Here are some tips to help you prevent and combat the ''winter blues.'' (Of course, if you are experiencing any form of depression, we would also advise you to speak with your doctor.)
Try light therapy. Getting as much light as possible will instantly help boost your mood. Get outside during daylight hours as often as you can, open up your shades, use ''full spectrum'' light bulbs, invest in a specialty light box designed for SAD, and turn on the lights in your house as soon as you can in the morning. Even artificial light helps!
Laugh! This may seem like a simple, yet difficult thing to do, especially if you are feeling depressed. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets! Watch a funny movie, see a comedy show, read an uplifting book, just act silly, or try anything else that never fails to get you chuckling.
Be social. Go out with your friends and do something fun! A lot of times, people with SAD may feel withdrawn, but push yourself to get out there, even if it is for a short time. This can make a huge difference, especially if you surround yourself with people that you enjoy being around.
Brighten up your house. Colors can affect our moods, so it may be time to update the colors in your house (even just one room). Try finding some inexpensive bright artwork to hang up on the walls, adding a new paint color, or perking up your living room with some colorful flowers. Giving at least one room in your house an updated look and feel can help improve your mood.
Wear brighter colors. You don't generally find people wearing bright colors during the winter months, but that doesn't mean you can't! Just like updating the colors in your house, updating the colors that you wear can make a difference, too. Instead of wearing dark colors, try wearing something that is brighter to help lift your mood.
Listen to upbeat music. Music can really set the mood for many people. My mood tends to mirror the music that I listen to. Just like upbeat music helps you get through your workout, happy music can help put you in a better mindset. Put on some tunes, let your hair down and boost your mood with some fun music!
Call a friend or family member. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk it out, so pick up the phone and talk with someone you trust (or meet them in person). It will be good for both of you talk and bond, so you're both sure to benefit from talking and listening to one another.
If you can, plan a vacation to a warm and sunny place. After living in the Midwest for a while, I have gotten used to the fact that a lot of people only live here part of the year. Many of them will plan to take vacations (or take a seasonal job) in Florida where it is nice and sunny. But if you live in a colder climate year-round like I do, save up for a vacation--even if it is for a few days--to a warm and sunny place to give you a break from the cold and help you soak in some natural light and vitamin D.
Click here for more ideas on how to combat the seasonal blahs.
Do you get the ''winter blues'' or have SAD? If so, what are your tips for cheering up in the colder months?

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January is usually tough for me and this year its even worse. I saw yesterday day we are one year into covid. Report
NANABFITZ 12/2/2020
Great article! Report
_CYNDY55_ 9/21/2020
Thanks! Report
I wonder how many times i've read this article Report
Great Article! Thanks! Report
Just enjoy life and yourself. Report
The only real solution for the winter blues is spring. When the sun comes back, you'll feel better. Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Interesting article. Good need-to-know information! Report
I agree that getting outside to DO something will help! Get a walk in the sunshine. Even if it is a blah day, there is light in the sky! Report
This winter will be completely different for me; I will not be going to work in the dark and getting home in the dark. I will have time to get outside and get sun every day for more than just a 10 minute break, half of which is taken up by getting coats on and then off. Report
I think it helps to get out and be active. There's lots to do in the snow. Report
Great read! Report
I have depression that can occur all year round, but I also suffer from depression in the winter. Told my doctor that I could really feel the lack of sunshine and he said I should invest in a light box, which I did a few days later...and got it in the mail yesterday! Sitting in front of it now...I hope it helps! Report
Thanks for reprinting this I needed this as i am dealing with t the winter blues not wanting to do anything and watching the scales bounce around which made me even more unhappy with my self trying the light and wearing bright colors thanks Report
Guys! If we weren't so depressed all the time, we wouldn't be depressed! Just be happy! LAUGH! Brighten up your wardrobe! What a breakthrough!
Next up: lonely people: MAKE FRIENDS.
Insomniacs: have you tried sleeping?
Fat people: stop being overweight!
I feel fixed already!
@Beldame, one research study is part of the data but doesn't tell the whole story. You can find studies that say that Fibromylagia, ADHD, aren't real. You can find studies that say weight loss is impossible. You can find research that says butter causes cancer, and research that says butter prevents cancer! But what matters is scientific consensus, and the scientific consensus at this point in time is that Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real. Report
This kind of thing always puts me in mind of what the anthro prof told us in his classes, over and over again:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are not interested in OPINION, we are not interested in CONJECTURE; we are interested in DATA. D-A-T-A; DATA. What does the DATA tell us?"
Seasonal Affective Disorder Is 'Folk Psychology,' Suggests Study; No Objective Data For Seasonal Depression
"Is major depression with seasonal variation — also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a valid construct? Perhaps not, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, which builds upon the doubt that's been cast on the SAD theory in recent years."
I'd post a link, but the site won't let me.
I get all of these symptoms in the summer. Granted, I live in the south. Our winters are relatively mild and I love them. Summer on the other hand tends to last about nine months and my brain stops functioning at 80 degrees and I can no longer handle the heat and go outside, even just to get the mail when it's past 100. I took a walk yesterday with my roommate and it was 70 degrees and so hot that I wanted to just give up, go inside and go to sleep. Report
I'm from Canada, and though it's rarely talked about, I'm fairly sure it's common even for those who are used to winter (unless they're the winter sport's people). Both my dad and I have most of those symptoms - but this is my first year with it hitting before January (I always wondered why it's so darn hard to wake up during the winter... or fall asleep at a reasonable time for that matter).
On the social aspect -- it's often difficult to explain how you're feeling, and most social things that I encounter are a bunch of people saying the expected... no one expects you to be real at those things. The one place I can be real, is dance --- and I'm normally laughing my head off by the end thanks to the endorphins and my friend (who is nearly always cheerful - and even more so after 1.5 hours of dance)! :) Report
I don't have a problem with cold weather but a friend does and I'm sending her this link Report
Jan - March are the worst for me! Report
I have never been diagnosed with SAD, but I suffer from all of these symptoms every year. The worst months being December through March. I previously lived in Florida and never had any problems, but now I live in Indiana. I find exercise is the best way to deal with it. I also try to get outside as much as possible, but I'm not a fan of cold weather. I have in the past used tanning beds, but of course these are not the best option for your health. I have also noticed my work hours are a factor too, I now work 2nd shift and it works well for me because I have more hours of daylight to enjoy. I will try some of the other ideas in this blog too. Report
I find it unrealistic to add "Be social' & "Call a friend" . When you are in the midst of SAD, the last thing you want is to have to be social. For an introvert with SAD, that is piling on guilt to say you must be social Report
Seasonal Affective Disorder actually only got named and publicized in the late 1980s, so that may be one of the reasons it sounds "new," too (obviously it existed before then, but I don't think it was named). Report
To the poster from Canada one reason you may not have heard about it is that you grew up in that environment and were used to it. I grew up several degrees of latitude farther south than I currently live and I suffer from the end of October until March. I don't think it is just being farther north but that my area (Pittsburgh, PA ) has so few sunny days year round that the short cloudy days of winter are just totally depressing for me. Report
These are good reminders. I'm going to have to incorporate some of these as a habit this season. Every year gets worse for me. So tired of living in the snow belt with clouds every day. Report
I'm dealing with all of these symptoms now, but I tend to blame those on *unemployment*, which hits so many folks throughout the year...... Report
I find that getting outside for at least a little while every day, especially for some physical activity, makes a huge difference. Report
I really don't understand why all the fuss. I grew up in Canada and nobody ever talked about anything remotely like this when I was a kid. I try to go outside especially if its clear out. Report
I have battled that in the past but it seems better now. Depression is no fun. I like the ideas in this article. Report
Yes, I struggle with this. -- I was surprised that exercise / movement was not on the above list of ideas to try / do. I find that regular, planned exercise does help me get from day to day. Report
I do not have SAD, but I am going through chemo and sometimes I get a little depressed because of the fatigue; I think some of these tips will help me with that. If I am having a bad day, even getting out for just an hour to have lunch with a friend boosts my spirits and gets me feeling better. Report
I just got a hanging lamp for one room in my home that got quite dark, even in early afternoon. It has made a big improvement. Report