Winter can be a tough time of year.
The cold, dark days can make many people feel down or depressed.
If you struggle with the winter blues, here are some tips to help you feel happier and less miserable during the colder months.
1. Get More Sunlight
Lack of sunlight in winter can disrupt your circadian rhythm and serotonin levels, which affects your mood. Try to get outside during daylight as much as possible.
Go for a walk during your lunch break, spend time outdoors on the weekends, or take a vacation somewhere sunny.
If you can’t get outdoors, sit near a window or invest in a sunlight therapy lamp. Getting more natural light exposure will boost your mood.
2. Exercise Regularly
Physical activity has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression. Going to the gym or getting in a workout at home can be hard when it’s cold out.
But making the effort to move your body will release feel-good endorphins and improve your state of mind.
Try winter sports like ice skating, snowshoeing or skiing. Or bundle up and go for brisk walks outside on sunny days. If it’s too cold, do an at-home workout DVD or YouTube video.
3. Eat Mood-Boosting Foods
What you eat can impact how you feel. Make sure your diet includes foods rich in mood-regulating nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin D, tryptophan and magnesium.
Load up on fatty fish like salmon, leafy greens, fermented foods like yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Cut back on sugary and processed foods which can worsen depression. Stay hydrated as well.
4. Seek Out Social Support
It’s normal to feel more withdrawn in the winter, but social isolation can worsen mood issues.
Make an effort to maintain social connections by calling friends, joining an online group or attending social events.
Spending time interacting with supportive loved ones can boost your spirits.
Volunteering can also help combat winter blues by getting you out of the house and focused on helping others.
5. Soak Up the Sun on a Trip
If you can afford it, take a vacation to a warm, sunny location.
Getting a change of scenery and soaking up some sun and fun can be rejuvenating.
Even just a long weekend getaway can help break up the winter and lift your spirits.
If you can’t travel, look at photos of summer scenes or watch videos from tropical destinations to temporarily feel warmer.
6. Take a Warm Bath
A warm bath can be soothing and elevate your mood.
Add Epsom salts to the water, which contain magnesium that is absorbed through your skin and may have anti-depressive effects.
Light candles and play calming music to create a serene atmosphere.
Taking a hot bath before bed can also improve sleep quality.
7. Get a Light Therapy Lamp
Light therapy lamps mimic the bright, natural light of the sun. Use a 10,000 lux lamp for 30 minutes daily to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
Position it close by and glance at it periodically while eating breakfast or working. Light therapy has been found effective at improving mood in people with seasonal affective disorder.
8. Try Aromatherapy
Certain essential oils like lavender, bergamot, clary sage and grapefruit can elevate mood and relieve stress.
Diffuse calming scents in your home or office, add oils to your bath, or apply diluted oils to your skin.
Inhaling pleasant aromas may lift your spirits by stimulating production of feel-good neurotransmitters.
9. Adopt a Pet
Loneliness and isolation tend to worsen winter blues.
Adopting a pet can bring joy, comfort and companionship. Taking your dog for daily walks also gets you outdoors for exercise.
Caring for an animal can help combat depressive feelings and give you a sense of purpose. Make sure you have the time and resources for pet ownership first.
10. See a Therapist
If self-care strategies aren’t helping, seek professional counseling.
A therapist can help you identify thought patterns contributing to your low mood and devise strategies to change them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication may be effective treatments for seasonal affective disorder. Getting professional support can be key to overcoming winter misery.
11. Tend to Your Spirit
Nurture your spirit by doing things that bring you meaning and joy. Try meditation, prayer, inspirational reading or listening to uplifting podcasts and music.
Express gratitude through journaling. Doing creative projects and hobbies you enjoy can also boost your mood. Find healthy escapes that make you feel renewed.
12. Soak Up Vitamin D
Many people are deficient in vitamin D during winter when there is less sun exposure. Take a supplement, eat fortified foods like milk, cereal and orange juice, or consider using a UV lamp.
An adequate vitamin D level (25 ng/mL) is essential for regulating mood, energy and fighting seasonal blues. Ask your doctor to test your blood level.
13. Go Easy on Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling glum or unmotivated during winter. Acknowledge it may be more difficult to cope this time of year.
Scale back obligations if needed to allow more time for self-care. Be patient with yourself and make your well-being the priority rather than being productive. The winter blues will pass.
14. Get Outside Right After Waking Up
Exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning can help reset your body clock and rhythms for the day.
As soon as you wake up, go outside for 10-15 minutes (even if it’s cold). The burst of bright light will cue your brain to be more energetic and positive. Then get some sunlight again later in the day too.
15. Take Up Winter Hobbies
Embrace winter by taking up hobbies that you can enjoy indoors or outdoors during the colder months.
Some ideas are baking, knitting, woodworking, model building, playing music, photography, painting or arts and crafts.
Doing fun projects and learning new skills can lift your mood and ward off boredom.
16. Use a Wake-Up Light
Wake-up lights simulate the sunrise to wake you up gradually.
This can improve your mood in winter by regulating your circadian rhythm better than an abrupt alarm.
The light also contains UV rays to boost vitamin D. Sit in front of the light for 20-30 minutes while drinking coffee to start your day feeling energized.
17. Declutter Your Space
Clutter around the home can worsen feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
The winter is a great time to clean out closets, cabinets, the basement and other spaces.
Get rid of stuff you no longer use or need and organize your belongings. Having an uncluttered, peaceful environment can lift your mood.
18. Treat Yourself
Do little things to treat yourself during long winter months.
Make yourself comfy by wearing cozy clothes and blankets, sipping hot chocolate or tea, lighting candles or diffusing essential oils.
Plan movie nights at home or evenings out at restaurants with friends. Getting massages can also destress and brighten your mood.
19. Use a SAD Lamp
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps emit up to 10,000 lux of light that mimics natural outdoor light.
Use one daily for 30 minutes or more to regulate your circadian rhythm. Position it close enough so the light enters your peripheral vision and aim it away from your eyes.
SAD lamps have been found effective for boosting mood in winter.
20. Consume Probiotics
Research shows gut health may be linked to brain health and mental well-being.
Take a daily probiotic supplement and eat foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi that contain beneficial bacteria.
Keeping your gut microbiome balanced may help ward off depression and improve mood.
21. Make Your Home Cozier
Your environment can greatly impact your mindset. Make your home extra warm, comfortable and cozy in winter.
Invest in soft rugs and blankets, fluffy pillows and comfy furniture. Keep your space well-lit and play soothing music.
Burn scented candles or potpourri and use an essential oil diffuser. Creating a sanctuary can lift your spirits.