Have you been hit by the winter blues?

The fun of the holidays are a distant memory, and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. These days it’s just cold, dark, and dreary.

One in five Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression also known as the winter blues.

Even if you don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis, most of us experience at least some of the symptoms: fatigue, less desire for socializing, and feeling down or blah.

It’s very important to be mindful about taking care of yourself if you’re experiencing any seasonal depression. Here are five ways to help you feel better and beat the winter blues:

Move your body.
Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to improve a depressed mood.

In fact, several research studies have proven that it can be as effective as taking an antidepressant. However, it can be a challenge to get yourself to the gym at 7am or go for a bike ride when you’re feeling tired and blah (and cold).

But moving is going to improve your mood. So try scheduling an exercise date with a friend to keep you accountable. Or bundle up and pick an activity that takes advantage of the wintery weather like ice skating or skiing. Added bonus for getting outside: spending time in nature also decreases your stress and anxiety (read more about that here).

Don’t hibernate.
You might feel like staying inside and binge watching Netflix until spring arrives but avoiding social situations is only going to make you feel worse.

Countless research studies have shown that social connection is one of the most important factors in overall well-being and mood.

Call a friend and make a plan to visit your local museum. You’ll get the feel-good benefit of socializing, plus research shows that looking at art makes you happy. It’s also a good time to make a reservation at that buzzed about restaurant you’ve been wanting to try that isn’t “fully committed” at this time of the year.

Get your vitamin D levels checked.
Your vitamin D levels are likely to drop in the winter months since most of us have less exposure to the sun.

Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating mood as well as maintaining bone and heart health. Most doctors recommend that you supplement with 2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.

However, if your levels are low it can actually take more than that to get your numbers back to normal, so it’s important to have your doctor test your blood levels.

Studies have shown that taking a D3 supplement can make a difference in reducing symptoms of the winter blues but be sure to pick a high quality brand. If you want more information about vitamin D you can learn more here.

Light Therapy.
Exposure to morning sunlight has been proven to help improve your mood.

Starting the day by taking your dog for a walk or going for a morning jog are two good options to get that exposure.

Another one is to sit in front of a light box that is made specifically to treat SAD for a half hour each morning. Avoid light boxes that emit blue light and choose one that filters out as much of the UV light as possible.

I suggest that my patients combine their morning meditation with their light exposure…two birds, one stone!

Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems.

If you’re experiencing SAD, make sure you’re getting 8 hours of sleep each night. But don’t overdue it and sleep in until noon! Wise Mind Living strategies like incorporating a regular mindfulness meditation practice into your routine will help calm your mind and make it easier to fall asleep.

Try cutting back on caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime. And keeping your bedroom cool and removing electronic gadgets that emit light will also help you stay fully rested. For more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep read this post.

If you’re struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, give these tips a try. And if you have any tips for relieving the winter blues, please share them below.


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