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Winter can be a hard time for many of us. The days are shorter, darkness sets in early, and oh yeah, it’s freezing out there! The change in seasons wreaks havoc on many people. Some people feel more tired, sad, or anxious when there are fewer hours of daylight in the winter months. Depression tends to get more intense in the winter months. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone, and there are things that can help.

Below are tips from people who experience seasonal depression.  They might help you feel better and get out of that funk. It’s best to try more than one suggestion. Just as not everyone experiences the winter blahs, some of the ideas below may not work for you. But they are worth a try. It’s important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you’ve tried all of these ideas and nothing seems to help.

*If you struggle with serious and continuous depressive symptoms, be sure to see a healthcare provider to discuss your condition. 

  • Get Outside Every Day. I know, going outside on purpose when it’s frigid isn’t the most appealing activity in the world. But, getting some fresh air and sunlight (in limited quantities), especially in the morning in addition to walking or running, will naturally release those feel good endorphins. Plus, there’s nothing like a brisk winter walk to wake you up!Woman walking her dog on a snowy, winter day
  • Keep to Routine/Consistency. Focus on routines – waking up, getting outside, eating well, seeing friends, and going to bed at a regular time – to help you feel better.
  • Practice Relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and tai chi are all calming and restorative practices can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Meditation and other mindfulness exercises can also lower stress.

Sledding friends

  • Get Social! Being with others, especially face-to-face, has the power to lift your mood and spirits tremendously. Aim to see at least one friend or family member outside of work at least once a week, and talk with another person on the phone at least once a week.
  • Turn on Lights Before it Gets Dark. Make the transition to nighttime easier on your body so you don’t experience the lack of light as strongly.
  • Ditch the Sugar. Sugar can cause problems not only to your physical health, but mental health as well. Sugar can worsen anxiety and leave you feeling sluggish. Stick to complete meals with protein, fiber, fruits, and veggies.
  • Check Your Vitamin D Levels. Most people who live far from the equator are low in vitamin D. Being low in vitamin D can effect serotonin levels, the brain chemical that regulates mood and affects sleep. Both are important in keeping your spirits up. You can get vitamin D from a healthy diet, including salmon and other fatty fish, cod liver oil, mushrooms, tofu, eggs, and milk and foods fortified with vitamin D. Spending (limited) time in the sun can also boost your vitamin D levels. Ask your doctor if you are deficient in vitamin D and it’s safe for you to take supplements.

Bottom Line: Have Fun in the Winter! Keep doing the activities that you enjoy, or use this season to try that new class or group you’ve been eying. Having fun and staying engaged are vital to a having good mood, especially in the winter. Wishing you a peaceful and bright winter season!

Written By:

Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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