Winter can be a magical time of year with Christmas lights everywhere, plenty of hot cocoa and lots of gifts. However, as the days are getting shorter, many of us start to experience the winter blues – the mood shift that is brought on by a lack of sunshine and cold weather.
During this season, the rates of depression rise, in connection with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is also referred to as “winter depression” and more severe than the winter blues. It is a mental health disorder that should be taken seriously and ideally discussed with a medical professional. Symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, feeling sad/anxious/hopeless, sleeping too much or too little, changes in your appetite and more.
If you feel these symptoms are an everyday occurrence and significantly affecting your life, please see a medical professional.
That being said, there are a few things you can try to combat the winter blues. The tips you will find below are form experts, my own experience as well as studies and more. SAD affects everyone differently, so you may need to try a variety of things before something works. Don’t give up!
Please note I am not a medical professional. This post is based on articles I have read, my own experience as well as past advice by my therapist and doctor. If you are struggling, please contact a mental health professional or GP.
Eat nourishing food
There is no magic food to combat depression, however studies have shown that a healthy diet full of nutrients can help improve your overall mood and energy levels. For example antioxidants, found in e.g. berries, apples, black beans, pecans and dark leafy greens, have been the focus of several studies. Antioxidants play an important role in protecting your body from free radicals which are linked to many diseases such as cancer. A different study looked at zinc deficiency and it’s role in depression and found reasonable evidence. Zinc can be found in foods such as
Overall, a healthy and balanced diet containing Fruits and Vegetables, Proteins, starchy foods, healthy fats and plenty of fluids can help improve your mood. In addition, cooking is also said to have mental health benefits so you can ‘mash two potatoes with one fork’.
Vitamin D Supplements
My doctor once told me that over 2/3 of the population in the UK should be taking Vitamin D supplements during the winter months as we just don’t get enough sun. Vitamin D plays an important role in keeping us healthy and energised and a range of studies have found some evidence that this may extent to combatting winter blues and even SAD.
Give back or volunteer
Have you ever volunteered at your local soup kitchen? Or given a random gift to a loved one? Or maybe helped an elderly lady carry her groceries up the stairs? How did it make you feel?
You likely felt happier afterwards. Studies have shown that giving to charity (money or our time) improves our mood and overall emotional well-being. Volunteering can also help you get out of bed and connect with other humans, providing some crucial social connection to combat feelings of loneliness.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ve likely heard me rave about journaling before. Journaling plays a huge role in managing your mental health, helping you manage anxiety, decrease stress and deal with depression. I personally find that writing down my worries and making to-do lists helps me manage my days and gets me out of bed when it feels like I can’t. It also helps me to be able to put my goals in writing and look back on them whenever I may need a boost. Give it a go!
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, but exercise doesn’t just improve your physical health but also your mental. It has been shown to have a positive effect on depression, anxiety, stress and ADHD. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that make you feel better, regulates your blood pressure and increases your energy levels.
Even just going for a daily walk outside will help you significantly improve your overall mood and maybe even get some much needed sun.
Have something to look forward to
Having something to look forward to is a psychological trick which helps you focus on the positive and gets you out of slumps. It doesn’t have to be something major – maybe just a coffee date with a friend, a facial appointment or a movie marathon with lots of popcorn. Write these things down and keep adding to the list. It will be a way to stay positive in the long-term.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
A social support system is one of your key weapons in the fight against depression and SAD. Don’t be afraid to talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling. Schedule regular calls or meetups. There are also often local support groups that you can go to and build strong social support.
Seek professional support
If you feel your symptoms are getting worse, significantly impact your everyday life or you just need someone to talk to, it is time to go to a professional. This is completely normal and nothing to be afraid of! If you’re in the UK, mind has put together a list of useful contacts. Just remember you are not alone in this.
If you’re struggling with the winter blues or SAD, you are not alone! Please lean on your support system and remember that longer days are just around the corner. Keep your chin up!
This is a very good read. Like the tips you shared for beating SAD. Studies have shown a positive correlation between taking Vitamin D supplements and depression.
These are some good tips to help you feel better. I don’t have it but I know it can be really difficult for people. Thank you for sharing your suggestions.
Yes, it can be a difficult time of year. Thank you for reading!
I love these tips! I have been volunteering lots recently and it has definitely made me enjoy life a bit more x
Amazing!! Thanks for reading 🙂