The days are short and the nights are long. It’s often raining or snowing. It’s generally just miserable after the holiday season. Can’t they leave up Christmas lights the whole winter?
If you’re anything like me, you tend to get seasonal depression or at least you’re in a seasonal funk. The lack of sunlight, cold weather, and general gloominess isn’t helping. Luckily, there are ways to defeat the winter blues.
However, if you think this is more than just the winter blues or funk, skip to number 11. You may be in a deeper depression and need professional help.
I’ve dealt with on and off depression and being on medications for years and I’ve come to learn the difference with funks, mild depressive states that I can pull out of on my own, and deeper depressions that I need help with.
If this is something you just need some advice for beating the winter blues by yourself then read on, but if you need more skip to number 11.
I have done each one of these and they have all helped immensely. I know they will help you too.
1. Defeat the Winter Blues with Being Active
OK, hear me out. I know this sounds really difficult if you’re dealing with the winter blues, but if you want to actually defeat them then you need to get moving.
No, you don’t have to work out on the treadmill an hour a day followed by a crazy lifting regime, but you do need to find a way to get active.
What kind of physical activity do you like to do?
Maybe you can just simply dance around your room listening to some upbeat music or maybe you’ve been wanting to get into yoga.
Find something you can do for 10-30 minutes a day to get your body moving.
I’m not going to lie, some days this is going to be really hard.
Some days you may have difficulty even wanting to get out of bed, but it’s those days I can’t encourage you enough to just get moving.
Even if this is just getting out of bed and doing some walking laps around your house or a few times going up and down your stairs. You need to get your endorphins up.
When I start sinking into my winter blues, the less I get up and active, the further I sink into it. “I’ll do it tomorrow” never comes and all a sudden you won’t have moved in a week or more.
Don’t get like this. Get up and out of your bed. Can you only do arm circles and walk in place? Do that.
Just get moving.
2. Take a Multivitamin
I know there are a lot of eyes rolling with this one, especially if you’re like me and you hate taking giant pills. But 1) it will help you raise your iron and vitamin B levels, and 2) your mom will stop nagging you to take a multivitamin. What? Only my mom? I don’t believe it.
Anyways, my dad actually had blood work taken before the winter and just as winter was ending a few years back. He also suffers from the winter blues. Before the winter all his bloodwork was normal, but right as winter was ending his vitamin D was terribly low.
While vitamin D isn’t the only reason people get seasonal depression or depression in general, it can affect your brain and your serotonin levels.
Either way, it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin or even extra vitamin D since you aren’t out in the sunlight getting natural forms of it. If you don’t want to take vitamins, make sure you’re getting a lot of healthy fruits and veggies to make up for it.
Unfortunately for me, I’m a horrendously picky eater so I opt for the giant pills.
3. Get Outside When Possible
Similar to increasing your vitamin D with vitamins, getting outside whenever possible is a great way to help you defeat the winter blues. Get some natural sunlight, go for a hike in the woods or somewhere you enjoy walking, or do whatever else you can outside.
The fresh air is so good for you and it’s a great way to perk up your spirits. I know when you’re really feeling down that getting out and about can feel difficult, but I urge you to give it a try.
Get an accountability partner to go with you and make it more fun. If you’re struggling to get out of bed, set a timer on your phone. When it goes off you HAVE to get up and get moving. No thinking, just doing. You’ll thank me later.
4. Open Your Blinds
Again, a lot of the winter blues and seasonal depression comes from fewer daylight hours, so while you have them, open your blinds up. Let some sunlight into your home or your office. Enjoy the view of the outdoors and the sun while you can.
These little things when put together can make a huge impact on your mental health. Even seeing a bird fly by your window can put a smile on your face that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. This sends a signal to your brain, no matter how brief, that you’re feeling happy.
Keep this up and open those blinds.
5. Get a Light Lamp to Help Seasonal Depression
Do I sound like a broken record yet? You need sunlight. It truly is an unpleasant feeling to wake up in the dark and get off work in the dark, especially if you don’t have office windows. I haven’t had office windows in over four years and it takes a toll.
I previously read that having a light lamp like these ones can help, so I bought one and it definitely has when I remember to use it. It slowly releases light around the time you need to wake up in the morning.
This helps you to naturally wake up and usually in a better mood than if you need to smack the snooze button in the complete dark.
In the summer I have no problems getting up around 5:30 in the morning. In the winter I can sleep easily until 7 and sometimes to 9, which doesn’t sound bad but I go to bed between 8-9 in the evening…That’s not good and doesn’t help me to beat the winter blues.
I now set the light alarm for 5:30 and it begins to light up a half-hour before. I slowly rise from my deep state of sleep in a natural way.
I highly recommend you try it out. I think it could help you too.
6. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Following up with how my sleep changes drastically in the winter, one of the best things you can do is to stick to a sleep schedule. Don’t let yourself sleep for several extra hours because it’s dark.
If you oversleep you’ll probably still feel groggy. This usually happens to me if I oversleep.
I actually feel worse and more tired and don’t want to do anything. 8-9 hours is my ideal amount of sleep, typically from 9pm to 5am. Now, on the weekends I sometimes sleep to 6am which is 9 hours, but if I let myself I could sleep until 7 or 8 or later.
This ends up at 10-12 hours of sleep! That’s way too much and is a huge sign of seasonal depression. This is actually one of my first signs that the winter blues have started.
Actually, the week or two before it started I was eagerly jumping out of bed at 5am to get into my morning routine before work.
Then all a sudden (or at least it felt that way to me) I was struggling to get up at 6, then 630, then 7. I force myself now to stick to the schedule, use my light, and workout first thing when I get up to get myself into a routine.
7. Do Extra Self Care
In my post about what self care is and how it helps you, I mentioned a few things that you should be doing at a minimum. Some of them are things I list in the post on how to defeat the winter blues.
At a minimum you should be doing the following things to care for yourself:
- Get plenty of sleep
- Drink lots of water
- Take a multivitamin
- Eat higher quality foods
- Get outdoors and sunlight
- Take time for yourself
When you have seasonal depression, these minimums can seem more difficult, but you need to get them done to start feeling better. It’s even more important now to go beyond these minimum things.
Find additional ways you can provide care for yourself and take long periods of time focusing on self care.
If you usually like to do your favorite hobby for an hour a day, try to see if you can do it for two. You can take longer baths, play your favorite music louder and longer, read more books, etc. The list goes on and on but I hope you get the picture.
When you’re feeling down, do more of the things that you love and that make you happy.
8. Write Down Positives
I’ve been taking personal development courses for about 9 months now, and one of the big things that you need to do to change your mindset from a more negative space to a more positive space is to actually get positive. Even if you’re faking it.
One of the first ways to do this is to write out some daily positives that have happened to you throughout the day. Was someone nice to you? Did you not let someone or something bother you? Maybe you got your favorite drink at the local cafe.
It doesn’t matter how small it seems. Grab a journal and start writing out all the positives that happened to you. Your brain will slowly start realizing that good things do actually happen.
Another way is to say positive affirmations or mantras. Take something that you’re feeling down about and turn it into a positive. For example, if you don’t feel like you’re good enough, start saying “I am good enough” a few times throughout the day.
You can also say things that you want to become. One example is if you wish you were more successful. Start saying “I am successful” every day.
This may feel really weird at first, it totally did for me too, but over time you get used to it and then you start believing it.
It will eventually evolve into other mantras. “I am good enough” may turn into “I am awesome” or “I am great at….” as you start gaining more confidence in yourself and you start coming out of your funk.
Some mantra’s you may want to say for your winter blues are:
“I am happy”
“I am energized”
“I am capable of getting things done”
“I am living my best life” or “I am working towards my best life every day”
These are just some examples. Think about what you could say to start getting into a more positive space.
9. Find a New Hobby (Or Revive One)
This one is a bit like the self care advice. Find something that makes you happy and energized to get involved with. This could be something you use to love to do but gave up or something you’ve always wanted to try.
Having a hobby gives you something to be excited and challenged by. My husband’s new hobby is whittling. He really likes working with his hands and he can spend hours on it instead of spending hours mindlessly watching TV or playing video games.
What kind of things can you do in your spare time that would make you happy?
This doesn’t have to be anything crazy, time-consuming, or expensive. Maybe your hobby is going to local used book stores and finding unique things to read.
Find something that excites you this winter.
10. Plan a Trip
I am the queen of this way to deal with not only seasonal depression, but stress, depression, and an assortment of other feelings as well. I’ve been running away or towards something, whichever way you want to look at it, since I was 16 years old.
The first time I did this was right after my special needs cousin was hit and killed by a can at only 26 years old. I was just turning 16. She was more like a sister to me though and had lived with us for several years of my childhood.
It hit the family really hard. I was sent off to be with some family in Florida for a few weeks as a distraction from the depression and grief.
This trip launched a lifetime of seeking trips. Whenever I’m feeling down I daydream about where I could go next. I don’t expect this to ever stop.
While this isn’t a long term solution to the problem, it could help give you temporary relief and some much-needed fun in your life. Try to find a place that would lift your spirits, preferably somewhere warm and sunny.
11. Seek Help If Needed
The final way to help beat the winter blues is to seek help. While I know there can be stigma around this, it actually takes strength to seek help and I applaud anyone who makes this decision.
I’ve needed help over the years and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been on Zoloft before and have gone to therapists before. They have really helped.
I’ve now learned and can spot when I’m in something I can’t pull out of versus a temporary sad period that I can get out of myself. If you’re newer to depression this may be harder to stop.
Give yourself a time period to see if these tips will help you and then if not, seek help. You may give yourself a few weeks or a month or two, but if after that you’re not feeling better on your own you need to find someone to talk to.
You can go to your general doctor to start with, seek out a therapist on your own, or use online therapy as a start. It’s called Better Help and can be an easier solution if you don’t know where to start your journey.
If you ever have thoughts about harming yourself or others, you need to seek help immediately. If your depression has lasted months you also need to seek help.
I’ve known people who have waited a very long time to see someone and it only delayed them feeling better.
If these tips aren’t helping you and you’re not pulling yourself out of your funk, then you’re probably in a bigger depression than you realize and you need to talk to someone.
I hope these tips help you get out of your winter funk, or any funk for that matter. A lot of these things can be used year-round and not just in the winter months.
Again, there is no shame admitting you need help. In fact, it says a lot about how strong you are if you can admit you can’t do it on your own. Only you know if this is something you can beat yourself.
Sometimes I can do it on my own and sometimes I can’t. The same is probably true for you.
You know in your heart what you need to do.
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