5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

If you find yourself hitting snooze a few more times than you usually do, struggling to concentrate throughout your workday, and craving extra snacks, you’re not alone - many Americans experience the winter blues each year. With dropping temperatures, shortened days, and holiday stress, it’s not hard to understand why many people feel less than chipper during the winter doldrums.

The winter blues are also known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). The symptoms are nearly identical to those of clinical depression, but they only occur between September and April each year. SAD is generally caused by the decreased exposure to natural sunlight associated with winter. Symptoms include:

§ Oversleeping and overeating

§ Craving carbohydrates

§ Difficulty waking up in the morning

§ Nausea

§ General lack of energy and difficulty concentrating or completing tasks

§ Decreased sex drive

§ Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities

Between 10-20% of Americans suffer from mild winter blues, and about 5% suffer from SAD. Not surprisingly, people who live in Florida and have more exposure to natural sunlight during the winter months experience lower rates of SAD, while people in Alaska experience higher rates.

But, have no fear! If you find yourself suffering from some of these common symptoms, here are some proven ways to lift your spirits during the winter months.

1. Listen to Music – listening to upbeat tunes was been proven to significantly improve the listener’s mood in the short and long-term in a 2013 study.

2. Go Outside – bundling up and braving the cold can immensely help the symptoms of SAD. Exposure to natural sunlight, even on cold and cloudy days, boosts your Vitamin D levels, and can increase creativity, lift your mood, improve your workouts and much more.

3. Eat Smarter – the holidays can be a difficult time when it comes to diet for a number of reasons, but some carbohydrates and other foods can contribute to seasonal depression. The good news? Chocolate and some other foods can actually help reduce anxiety and boost your mood.

4. Aromatherapy – diffusing simple blends of essential oils, while not a replacement for medical treatment of depression, is a great way to help ease the symptoms of the winter blues. Here are a few recipes and simple instructions to get started.

5. Exercise – it’s no secret that moving your body has been proven time and again to help improve many areas of health, including mental health. It doesn’t take much, either – a 2005 Harvard study showed that simply walking at a brisk pace for 35 minutes a day five times a week (or 60 minutes a day three times a week) significantly lessened depression symptoms. There are many, many ways to workout, and getting in small bursts of exercise in outdoors is even better when it comes to beating the winter blues.

Spring is (sort of) right around the corner, but we hope these tips help you to stay happy, healthy and warm in the meantime. Of course, if you are experiencing severe depression symptoms any time of year, it is important to seek help from a doctor and/or therapist.

~Written by Chelsea Fristoe, Coastal Center for Collaborative Health blog writer