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  • Toronto Psychotherapy Space

12 ways to beat winter blues & seasonal depression

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

Often referred to as “winter depression,” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is

characterized by the onset of depression during the fall and winter months when the

days become shorter and exposure to natural light is reduced. It affects more than 1

million Canadians, from the elderly to the very young, and more women than men.

While signs and symptoms vary from person to person, they can include:

  • Lack of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Avoiding social situations

  • Feeling sad and hopeless,anxious or angry

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Difficulty waking up and/or waking up throughout the night

  • Changes in appetite

  • Thoughts of self-harm

If you struggle this time of year, here’s 12 strategies to help ease symptoms and get you

back to feeling more like yourself.

Seek Help

With the right diagnosis and combination of treatments, people can find relief from many

of the symptoms of SAD. Cognitive Behavioural Theory (CBT), is a type of talk therapy

that research has shown effectively treats SAD, producing the longest-lasting effects of

any other treatment approach. Talk to your therapist and healthcare provider to find the

treatment that will work best for you.

Soak Up the Sun

When the weather’s nice, throw on a hat and go for a stroll, or simply sit on the back

deck with a blanket. During cold spells, consider sitting close to a window. Double up

the light in your life with a sun lamp; they mimic natural light and have been shown to

help. For the public’s convenience, some branches of the Toronto Library have light

therapy lamps you can sit next to, on a first come first served basis.

Take the Stairs

Exercise is beneficial for everyone and can help those of us suffering from depression -

even a short walk around the block. Being active releases endorphins within the body

that reduce pain and increase feelings of well-being. In addition, exercise increases

your metabolism, which helps improve feelings of fatigue.

Eat Some Greens

While most people gravitate to comfort food, like mac and cheese, lasagna, and

scalloped potatoes when overwhelmed or unhappy, this choice may be dragging you

down further. Instead opt for fresh fruit and vegetables like carrots, spinach, lettuce,

cucumber, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, fresh berries, and kiwifruit, which are all

associated with better mental health and fewer symptoms of depression.

Declutter Your Space

Clutter can create emotional tension for anyone. Stay on top of chores and try to clear

surfaces - especially if you work from home (it can pile up quickly). Don’t wait until

spring to clean and purge those items you don’t need.

Manage Outside Influences

Self-care is also about avoiding emotional triggers. Sad movies, books, podcasts, news,

and even emotional songs should be avoided when the winter blues set in. And, of

course, this extends to people who tend to upset you as well. Instead, look for

inspirational material and people who lift you up.

Meet Up with a Friend

Although you may want to just shut yourself off and hibernate, daily human interaction is

important (and kids under 5 don’t count). Call a friend or family member for a quick chat

or to set a date to meet up for coffee. And, while face-to-face interaction is nice, it’s not

necessary. Connect via facetime or Zoom, or even a simple text to catch up and ask

about their day.

Cut back on Alcohol

It’s simple, alcohol is a depressant that affects the brain’s natural level of serotonin and

dopamine (the happiness hormones). So, while we may think a drink will relieve our

stress, it can actually intensify anxiety and irritability. In fact, even the next day its effects linger as it leaves the body. Perhaps this is why a “dry” January or February has

become so popular.

Take Vitamin D and B12

Research shows that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and

decreasing the risk of depression. B12 is also linked to mood enhancement and energy

levels. But, as with any supplement, it’s important to talk to your doctor before adding

them to your daily routine.

Buy a New Plant

Studies show that plants make us feel better, help us increase productivity, enhance

concentration and help us feel more energized. No space? Consider a trip to the

nearest botanical gardens and escape the ice and snow for the afternoon!

Write About It

A journal is a great tool to help sort out your feelings. Write down the things that

frustrate and anger you. Unload feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Then, jot down

everything you’re grateful for from people and things to personal attributes. Add some of

your biggest dreams, and maybe a few of your innermost secrets. You may even find

that your journal is a great way to share your thoughts with a therapist.

To be matched with the right therapist and have a free 20-minute psychotherapy

consultation, visit our website at or call us at (647) 267-8920.

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