8 Tips for Beating the Winter Blahs

excerpted from Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center blog

Tips for Beating the Winter BluesDuring the winter months, many people feel tired, irritable, or a bit down. Most people only experience a mild version of the winter blues, while others experience a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Both are caused by sensitivity to the lack of sunlight from the shorter winter days, which disrupts your body clock and messes with hormone levels. This in turn affects your mood and makes you want to sleep more (even if it’s hard to fall asleep at night).

Here are 8 tips to try to lift your mood:

  1. Lighten Up. Your body and brain are craving more daylight, which makes you release the feel-good hormone serotonin. Walk outside during the day, even when it’s cold, to get some sun exposure. Sit closer to windows during the day can also help you get an extra dose of sunshine.
  2. Eat Right to Improve Your Mood. Little comforts that don’t lay on the carbs, like a cup of tea or small piece of dark chocolate, can help you relax without sabotaging yourself later. Fruits and vegetables can leave you feeling more optimistic in the long run. Vegetable soup or chili can give you the cozy feel of a cup of hot chocolate without the sugar crash.
  3. Get Moving. Exercise is a great way to help deal with (and even prevent) depression. Bundle up and go for a walk, play basketball with friends indoors at a community center or gym, or dance around your living room.
  4. Listen to an Upbeat Playlist. Research suggests that listening to cheerful music can improve your mood, even after the song ends. So put away the ballads and listen to something with a good beat you can dance to!
  5. Help Others. Volunteering your time to help someone else can improve mental health and how satisfied you feel with your life. Help out a local organization. Clean out your closet and donate the clothes you’ve grown out of. Put in some extra effort around the house to help out your family. Do something nice for a friend. The possibilities are endless!
  6. Stay Social. You may feel inclined to spend more time alone, but spending time with friends and loved ones can have a serious impact on your mood. If you begin flaking on your friends more during the fall and winter, ask someone to encourage you to keep those commitments.
  7. Relax. Being mindful, doing deep breathing exercises, and meditating can all have a significant impact on how you feel. Try taking several deep, slow breaths, filling your belly as you inhale and letting it deflate as you exhale. Concentrate on nothing but your breathing.
  8. Be Kind to Yourself. When you’re depressed, it can be hard to find the motivation to actually do the things listed above. If you skip a workout, stay in all day, or listen to your favorite sad song on repeat, don’t get mad at yourself. Instead, think about what you’d say to a good friend going through something similar—and then tell yourself that.

Remember, spring is just a few months away!