woman standing on river bank on a cold foggy day

Winter blues can affect anyone when the days are short, the skies are dark, the air is cold, and rain is falling for days on end. But there are ways to fight back winter depression and get yourself on a path to enjoying the season.

Healthy Happy Moments Fight Winter Depression

Dark and rainy days are common during the winter months in the Pacific Northwest. The rate of winter depression in our area is more common than in states like Florida where the sun shines more often. But even in Florida, 1% of residents suffer from winter depression. If you are feeling tired, moody, anxious, hungry more frequently, and less motivated to do things, you could be experiencing some winter depression. We might not be able to avoid the gloomy weather and shorter winter days, but there are healthy ways to battle winter depression.

Color Your Way to Happiness

An easy way to help fight winter blues is to bring bright colors into your day. Color therapy can be as simple as choosing to wear a shirt with colors that make you happy today. Doing something creative with bright colors like painting a canvas or drawing with colored pencils can help to fight the effects of grey skies on rainy days. Even a small change like painting your nails a fun color can help chase away the blues.

Embrace Winter

One way to fight winter depression is to embrace the season with great wintertime activities.  Curl up in your favorite chair and read that book you have been meaning to get around to finishing. Bundle up and go out to enjoy a walk on a favorite path. Head over to the ice skating rink and watch the skaters. Splurge and have a cup of hot cocoa with little marshmallows. Find a way to embrace the season, whatever that means to you.

Set the Mood with Music

Upbeat music can change your attitude, and set your mood to happy. Listening to your favorite music can melt the winter blues away. Don’t be afraid to dance, even if it is just a wiggle!

Create Joyful Moments

Getting together with friends or family can lift your spirits and help you fight doldrums. Playing a card or dice game with friends may only take a few minutes, but you can enjoy lasting effects with your improved mood. Another way to create a joyful moment is by finding a way to be generous to someone else. It can be as simple as holding a door or sharing a meal. Showing kindness and engaging in fun activities with others generates a feeling of satisfaction with your life. This kind of happiness chases away the symptoms of winter depression.

Get Some Sun

We only get sun about 29% of winter days in Vancouver, WA. Taking in natural sunlight can be a challenge. Even on cloudy days, getting outside for sun exposure can help stimulate vitamin D production to strengthen your immune system and fight depression. Sunlamps and  light boxes can help if you are not able to get outdoors for sunlight. Vacationing can be another way to get some sun if your budget allows it. We are fortunate to have a sunnier region in Central Washington if you want a quick trip to the light. You could also visit Florida, Arizona or Hawaii since those states see the most sunlight during the winter months.

Healthy Food, Healthy Mood

Winter depression symptoms include overeating and weight gain. When it is cold outside, we tend to eat more to store energy to fight the cold. Researchers tell us that this behavior helped us throughout history. Unfortunately, junk food is quick and easy to get, but not very healthy. Eating healthy foods boosts your mood, energy levels, and health.

Exercise Your Depression Away

Winter rolls in cold and wet, and we tend to stop exercising as much as during warm, dry summer months. Getting up and moving around for thirty minutes throughout the day can make a world of difference. Studies show that exercise improves mood, destresses, improves sleep, and helps alleviate mild to moderate depression. Exercise may even distract you from daily concerns and block negative thoughts.

You do not need to go to a gym or start a high-intensity exercise regime to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Walking at the mall or visiting an indoor pool for swimming or water aerobics can be exercise options if you want to avoid the cold outside. During the winter months, walking the dog for thirty minutes a day can make a difference for both you and your dog too! Even if you have mobility issues, you can do exercises to help improve your mental and overall health. Try to add some strength and flexibility efforts to your daily activities. Start small and be consistent. Even a small amount of exercise can help improve your mood and overall health.

Sometimes Winter Depression Is Really SAD

Anyone can experience occasional winter blues when it gets gloomy outside, but some people experience symptoms that go beyond normal winter depression. People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) struggle with daily tasks and may have difficulty getting to appointments on time. We do not fully understand what causes SAD, but studies show that lack of sunlight, diet, and other factors interrupt complex chemistry and biological rhythms within the body. SAD affects approximately ten million Americans, and is four times more likely to affect women than men. It is important to recognize the symptoms of SAD.

5 Symptoms of SAD

  1. Excessive sleeping
  2. Extreme fatigue
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Weight gain
  5. Low motivation

What To Do If You Have Symptoms of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can be treated at home under normal circumstances. Often people who suffer from SAD begin experiencing symptoms in the fall. If you recognize the symptoms, you can take steps to help yourself. There are five ways you can help yourself beat winter SAD.

  • Light therapy has been the most effective treatment. Turning on a light box near you for about thirty minutes after you wake up in the morning should make a difference.
  • Exercise helps with any type of depression, but it may help correct chemical and biological imbalances associated with SAD.
  • Eating well and getting plenty of protein while avoiding sugars should help correct symptoms.
  • Taking vitamins to help boost your body’s ability to correct itself may help. Vitamins to focus on are Omega 3s, B vitamins, and vitamin D.
  • Vacationing in a sunnier place may seem extreme, however, this method has been proven to clear symptoms of SAD.

We all need help sometimes. Talk to your advice nurse or doctor and get help if you are experiencing symptoms of SAD that do not go away with light therapy, exercise, eating well, and vitamin boosts.

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