5 Expert Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

5 Expert Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Feeling blah now that the temperatures have dropped? Try these mood-boosting tricks.

By: Nicole Fabian-Weber

Winter. For most of us, it’s the worst. Each year, as the end of September creeps up seemingly out of nowhere, I start getting anxious at the thought of dropping temperatures and a sun that sets at around 4:30 p.m. on a good day. I’m definitely not my best during the winter. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that my chapped lips, dry hands, and I are at our worst. This year, though, I’ve decided to make an effort to combat what’s often referred to as the “winter blues,” or in more serious cases, seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

If you feel down in the dumps during the darker, colder months, don’t worry – all hope isn’t lost. There are a few things you can do that will lift your spirits and help you weather the storm (pun intended). Here, five expert tips for combating SAD and the winter blues.

1. Light therapy. To some, the term “light therapy” may conjure up the image of a hippie commune somewhere in southern California, replete with chanting and exotic teas, but actually, it’s often the first thing doctors recommend for SAD. “Light therapy is the treatment of choice for seasonal affective disorder,” says Dr. Niles Drake, MD, a New York City psychiatrist who specializes in circadian rhythm disorders. “While medications like antidepressants can be helpful, for most people treatment with light will work faster, more effectively, and with fewer side effects than pharmacological treatments.” Consider investing in a 10,000-lux light box. Drake recommends waking up a bit earlier than you typically would and sitting in front of one for 20-30 minutes.

2. Exercise. For some of us, getting motivated to exercise in the summer months is no easy task, so lacing up our gym shoes in the winter can feel like a Herculean feat. However, exercise is a proven mood booster, so getting up and moving can do wonders – even if you have to drag yourself out of bed. To stay inspired, try mixing up your routine a bit. Take a fun class or buddy up with a friend for morning trips to the gym.

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3. Get your vitamin D. During the months where there’s less sunlight, our levels of vitamin D often drop, sometimes resulting in a deficiency. Decreased levels of vitamin D can affect things like depression, weight gain, and bone health, so talk to your health care practitioner about taking a supplement or upping your dosage. “Because the amount of light needed to convert dietary vitamin D to its active form is much less available during the winter months, it becomes much more important to supplement during these months than during the summer,” explains Drake. “The amount of vitamin D a person should supplement their diet with is affected by a number of factors, but taking between 600 to 1,000 IUs daily is probably a good choice, though some experts recommend as much as 2,000 IUs in the winter.”

4. Don’t hibernate. People are like bears – once the cold weather hits, they just want to curl up and stay inside, but try to resist that urge! Sure, it’s more of an ordeal to get dressed and out of the house when the temperatures are hovering around freezing, but people almost always feel better when they socialize with others. Force yourself to make dates, even if it’s just getting together with a few girlfriends. Odds are, your spirits will be lifted after spending time with people you enjoy.


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5. Get outside. Yes, it’s freezing, but yes, you should still go outside, as outdoor exposure has proven benefits in the winter. Not every day of winter is bone-chilling cold, so on the days where there’s some sunshine and the temperature doesn’t feel arctic, bundle up and get some fresh air and sunlight. More likely than not, you’ll return home feeling rejuvenated.

What tips do you have for combating the winter blues?

Nicole Fabian-Weber is the mama to a sweet toddler girl and an equally sweet baby boy. She lives outside of NYC and writes for The Stir and numerous other online publications.

Image ©iStock.com/gpointstudio

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