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6 proven ways to be happy and stop being sad this winter

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I glance at my watch and notice that it’s only 5 pm. It is cold and it’s pitch black outside. Ugh, I hate this. Winter is hard for me and I feel sad, depressed, and have less energy. The time change and the cold weather negatively change my mood. I ask myself yet once again, how can I stop being sad in the winter?

This year I’m committed to feeling energetic, motivated, and excited about winter.

Rather than staying inside all day, I want to venture outside and challenge myself to enjoy this time of year.

How can I stop being sad in the winter?

Do you find yourself losing energy, being unmotivated, and having an overall change in mood?

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly may be going on for you. However, it’s possible that you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

How can I stop being SAD in the winter

Whether you’re struggling a lot or a little, there are some proven ways to fight off winter depression.

In order to begin feeling better, I suggest that you try a few different habits and routines. This way you can identify what makes you feel better and less depressed.

Keep up the healthy habits once you have identified what works in helping you feel better.

Why do many people feel depressed or sad in winter?

Some researchers link seasonal depression to the fact that there’s less sunlight in winter.

Wondering if you have seasonal depression?

Here are some of the symptoms associated with the winter onset of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder):

  • Feeling depressed or sad most of the day, nearly every day
  • Having difficulties with sleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Low motivation or interest in doing things
  • Having low energy, feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

Before you begin freaking out that you have a SAD diagnosis, it’s important to understand that some people may be more predisposed to seasonal affective disorder than others.

For example, people like me who suffer from depression are at higher risk of developing SAD than those who do not.

Most importantly, consult a medical or mental health professional if you think that you are suffering from a mental health condition.

How to deal with winter depression

Did I say I hate it when the time changes?

Yeah, it really sucks so I am trying to be proactive to avoid the winter blues.

How can I stop being SAD in the winter
Pantea Rahimian hiking to avoid the winter blues

I’ve been doing an experiment this year to figure out a better way to deal with winter depression.

Guess what?

I found several things that actually work!

Next time you feel like you have winter depression, try any of these activities to lift your spirits and improve your mood.

1. Get exposure to sunlight or try light therapy

Ever notice that people are in better moods during the spring and summer? It’s because they spend more time outside and get exposed to sunlight.

During the winter the days get shorter and sunlight becomes minimal. Therefore your body experiences a drop in serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects your mood. So when the chemical drops, so do your overall mood.

“For the estimated half a million people in the United States who may experience winter depression, bright light therapy, known as phototherapy, is now commonly prescribed… For people whose symptoms are mild, outdoor time – perhaps an hour’s walk under the winter sun — or greater indoor exposure to sunlight can help.”

American Psychological Association

Did you know that sunlight plays an important role in your circadian rhythm? It helps with your sleep, mood, and energy as well as regulating your hormones.

During the winter try to spend as much time in the natural light as you can. If you’re unable to, you can still get the neurological and psychological benefits from an artificial lightbox.

The key is to ensure that the device yields at least 10,000 lux. Spending thirty minutes in the morning in front of this lightbox will reverse the symptoms of SAD and alleviate anxiety.

2. Prioritize your beauty sleep

I usually finish working around 4:30 pm and by the time I get home my internal clock is telling me to wind down and go to bed since it’s dark outside.

Despite this change, I try to remember that it’s important to maintain a regular sleep schedule.

A pug sleeping beside a woman on a bed

When it’s dark and cold outside it’s common for you to feel sleepy and want to take a nap. Unfortunately taking an afternoon siesta changes your sleep cycle and makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night.

To avoid this vicious cycle, go on a brisk walk when you feel tired or have low energy.

3. Practice mindfulness and meditation

Winter can be rough especially if you live in parts of the country where it’s extremely cold. Learning to use mindfulness strategies such as meditation or yoga helps you identify your feelings and improve your mood.

Moreover, mindfulness encourages you to explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Pantea Rahimian practicing meditation and yoga at Sol Seek Yoga Studio

In addition, regular meditation practice helps you center your mind and body.

As a result, you are in a calmer state and can identify the triggers that lead to anxiety or depression.

New to meditation? Here are the best meditation tips for beginners!

4. Exercise during the day

I tried an experiment in my quest to find out how can I stop being SAD in winter. I’ve started exercising during the day rather than at night.

Believe me when I tell you that scheduling your workouts during the day is like taking a magic pill to beat the winter blues.

When you exercise outside you get the health benefits of sunlight and movement. This concoction boosts serotonin and endorphins in your brain.

Pantea Rahimian hiking in Anza Borrego

As a result, your mood improves and you have more energy.

Most importantly when you exercise during the day you have enough time to wind down at night. This helps you sleep more soundly. Getting good quality sleep is essential in stabilizing your mood.

Need some motivation to start exercising? Here are 10 foolproof ways to boost your motivation and work out right now.

5. Start a new hobby

When it’s cold and dark outside you probably just want to lay on the couch and scroll through social media or binge-watch Netflix.

Pantea Rahimian

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Unfortunately, those habits will only worsen your mood and depression.

Instead, consider picking up a new hobby to keep your mind and body active.

Here are some hobbies to consider:

The best part about having a new hobby is that you can still do it in the comfort of your own home.

Most importantly, having a hobby gives you something to look forward to even on the coldest and darkest of days.

6. Stay social and make plans

As a licensed mental health professional one question I ask every one of my clients, regardless of their symptoms or diagnosis is this:

“What are you looking forward to?”

When you anticipate something, you are more likely to feel inspired and energized.

In addition, you may be more productive because you know that something good is coming your way. This helps you feel more capable of dealing with day-to-day nonsense.

So here’s what I’m doing. Instead of ruminating about how I can stop being sad in the winter, I start making plans. I love traveling, so I’m planning for my husband and me to go on a weekend getaway.

Also, to celebrate pumpkin season, I’m going to host a pumpkin-themed dinner party.

Here are some other ideas to stay social in winter:

  • Volunteer at a shelter
  • Host a cookie exchange
  • Go to a free concert
  • Visit the library
  • Go to a museum
  • Host a craft night
  • Create a vision board

Rather than isolate yourself and be alone at home, make a concerted effort every week to make plans and have something to look forward to.

Wrap-up

I’ll be completely honest, I dread winter every year because I anticipate that I will feel depressed.

This year it’s been different because I’ve been trying to understand how can I stop being sad in the winter.

I realized that it’s common to feel sad or depressed in winter because there’s less daylight. This can cause us to socially isolate ourselves, be less active, and have sleep disturbances.

But you know what?

You can actually combat winter depression.

Instead of hibernating like a bear this winter, start a new hobby and get exposure to natural daylight or a light therapy lamp.

Focus on getting your beauty sleep and try meditation or yoga.

Yes, it’s cold, wet, and dark outside. You can’t change that so focus your energy on making plans every week so you have something to look forward to.

Stay connected with your friends in person and make an effort to get together.

Lastly, if you are still struggling, make an appointment to talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

What are YOU doing to avoid the winter blues? Did you try one of these techniques? What worked well and what are other activities you recommend? Please share your stories and comments below.

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  2. Get started now and include what you’ve learned throughout this article in your daily routine
Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.

Comments

9 Responses

  1. Very interesting and informative post. The time change affects me as well, even though I live in the south where we don’t have much of a winter. Your exercise tip is one I want to implement.

  2. Movement and exercise helps so much in the winter, especially if you work in an office! Going for a short walk or doing some types of movement make all the difference.

    1. Hi Katrina I completely agree. I work in an office all day and make a concerted effort to go on a short 10-minute walk twice a day since I’m indoors AND sitting all day. Thanks for your positive feedback and suggestion!

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