12 ways to beat winter blues & seasonal depression
Updated: Feb 4
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
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.
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 www.tpstherapy.ca or call us at (647) 267-8920.