Once the novelty of roaring fires, hot cocoa, and chunky sweaters wears off, winter can be a pretty depressing. The days are shorter, the weather is drearier, and the temperatures can drop so low that it becomes unsafe to go outside. Not fun. Winter can also lead to a very common condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. SAD. Whether you’ve just got a case of cold-weather blues or you’re suffering from a serious bout of seasonal depression, there are several tactics that can keep your spirits lifted.
Scroll through for eight ways to stay happy this winter!
See the light, and do so right away in the morning. Research shows that exposure to bright light in the early morning can be a powerful and effective treatment for seasonal depression. When skin is exposed to sunshine, your body increases its production of serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood. Sleep with your blinds open to wake up to natural light. And since there’s less sunlight in the winter, consider investing in a light therapy box that mimics the spectrum of light the sun produces. Turn it on for 30 minutes while you sip your morning coffee to start your morning off on a positive note.
Pop some pills—vitamins, that is. Vitamin D is an important component in mood stabilization, but many women don’t get enough of it. In the winter, when the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough to give you adequate vitamin D, take a supplement. Talk to your doctor to find out if you’re getting enough of the mood-boosting vitamin, and if you’re not, your doctor can help you determine the amount you need.
Eat plenty of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates to combat the winter blues. Find B vitamins in cheese and shellfish, and omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, and herring. Low levels of both have been associated with depression. And now isn’t the time to enforce a strict low-carb diet. Cutting carbs can lead to a drop in serotonin levels. Instead, fill up on complex carbohydrates like whole grains and brightly colored vegetables. Skip refined carbs and sugary processed foods, which create spikes in your blood sugar that lead to crashes later.
Exercise is a proven mood booster. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety at rates that are comparable to prescription anti-depressants. Working out releases endorphins and stimulates norepinephrine production, both of which improve mood and ease depression symptoms. Plus, regular workouts are good for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing holiday weight gain.
While the call of Netflix gets louder the more temperatures dip, resist the urge to hibernate all season long. Humans need interaction. Being around the ones we love releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin that lifts your mood. Plan indoor activities with your friends and family to keep busy in the winter months.
Mastering a new skill is a surefire way to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. You can learn how to do just about anything on YouTube these days. If you want to get crafty, take up a hobby that can double as a holiday gift. Knitting has been shown to have a relaxing effect.
Clutter can be mentally distracting and discouraging, so it’s especially important to keep your home tidy in the winter. Make your bedroom a sanctuary by keeping it clean, quiet, and at a relaxing temperature. The easier it is to fall asleep and stay asleep, the happier you’ll be. Since disruption of your body’s circadian rhythm can make symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder worse, try to stick to a sleep schedule that doesn’t vary too much weekday to weekend. Besides, sleeping away half the day every Saturday and Sunday tends to lead to feelings of guilt. Make your bed first thing in the morning to dissuade you from crawling back in and help your room look put-together.
Colors can have a big impact on your mood. Instead bundling up in head-to-toe black and dark gray, work a few bright pieces into your wardrobe. A brightly colored hat or scarf could be just the pick-me-up you need. And if repainting your apartment isn’t exactly the winter hobby you had in mind, you can at least swap out your neutral throws for something with a little more color. Try adding a yellow blanket to your bed or tossing a few orange pillows onto your couch.
What do you do to keep yourself happy in the winter? Share your tips and tricks below!