How to Combat the Winter Blues

Senior woman sitting alone

Many people experience a mood change during the winter seasons, sometimes dubbed the “winter blues”. The “winter blues” are often attributed to a medical condition called “Seasonal affective disorder”. This condition is a depression which strikes during winter months caused by a lack of sunlight. The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that 3% of adults are affected.

Symptoms may include:
• Irritability
• Tiredness or lower amounts of energy
• Emotional sensitivity
• Heaviness in body
• Appetite changes, including cravings for foods high in sugar or carbohydrates

Though Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur in anyone, you are more likely to be affected if the following applies to you:

  • Location – Those who live in Northern climates which receive less sunlight.
  • Being a woman – Seasonal Depression disproportionately affects women.
  • Age – Though young people are slightly more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder, people of older age can also be affected.
  • Family history – If you have family members who have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or another form of depression, you may be more likely to be affected as well.If you feel sadder during the winter months, or if you suspect you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you might want to consider some of the following treatments:

1. Exercise

Exercising is known to boost endorphins to boost your mood and mental health. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or spend a session at the gym. You’ll not only feel great immediately afterward, but consistent exercise leads to be better mood overall. It can also help regulate your sleep to make you feel less tired during the day.

2. Getting as much Natural Light as Possible
This one maybe a little more challenging during the winter months. But, if you see that it’s a nice day out, make that extra effort to go outside. Studies have shown that natural light and being outside improves people’s moods.

3. Light Therapy
Light therapy can be a great way to ward off those symptoms with minimal side effects. Light therapy works by exposing your body to a light emitting box. Though research on light therapy is limited, it does appear to be effective for many people. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in pursuing this form of treatment.

4. Monitoring Your Diet
A well-balanced diet can improve your mood substantially. Make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3 and 6 fats – studies have shown that these fats are related to regulation of mood. Additionally, smart snacking on carbs can improve mood by improving serotonin levels, one of the many hormones responsible for mood regulation.

5. If you Need To, Don’t be Afraid to See a Doctor
Everyone has off days, or days when they aren’t feeling themselves. If you feel that your mood disrupts your life, talk with your doctor to see about available treatment options.

Even those who are not diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder may benefit from these treatments. If you feel so inclined, try some of these and see if your mood improves. Maybe one of these tricks can lift your spirits fro