Every fall when the rain hits Seattle and the dreary days come back, I notice a huge drop in my mood. I’ve lived in Seattle for 13 years now and these past few winters have been particularly difficult in the mood department. Can anyone relate? 😉
A lot of people suffer from the “winter blues,” also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where you feel depressed or notice a drop in your mood during the winter.
A few common signs include:
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Low energy
- Sleeping more than usual
- Craving carbohydrates, overeating, and possible weight gain
- Feeling apathetic, unmotived, and less interested in friends or activities you usually enjoy
- Feeling moody or irritable
This year, instead of just struggling through, I’ve been making a conscious effort to find ways to beat the winter blues and I’m really excited to share these tips with you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder or depression, I would recommend consulting with your doctor, naturopath, or a medical professional to determine the best treatment for you. I am sharing these tips because this is what has worked well for me. Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links (which means I will get a small commission if you choose to purchase an item using the link), but this post is in no way sponsored and I am not affiliated with any of these brands.
5 Ways to Beat The Winter Blues:
1. Light Therapy
Light therapy is the most popular treatment for SAD and from my experience, it’s extremely effective. Light therapy (or phototherapy) consists of using a special light box which produces similar effects to natural light, thus triggering your brain to release chemicals to help balance your mood.
I purchased a Miroco LED Bright White Therapy Light a couple of winters ago and it has made a huge difference overall.
To practice light therapy:
- Make sure to purchase a light box that emits 10,000 lux (this mimics the full spectrum of light found in sunlight and is much stronger than typical indoor lighting).
- Position the box about 2 feet away from you, at a 45-degree angle on the left or right (either 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock)
- Use the light box every morning, preferably right when you wake up. (Do not use the light box in the evening or late in the day as it could disrupt melatonin production and interfere with sleep.)
- Use the light for 20 – 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes depending on your needs. I started with 30 minutes and found that 45 – 60 minutes has the most impact on my mood. You can work or do other activities while using the lamp.
2. Himalayan Salt Lamp
Since we spend so much time indoors during the winter, this can often contribute to our mood or stress levels. When we spend time outdoors in nature, we’re more exposed to negative ions which help to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in feeling more energetic and alert. (This is why many of us feel so refreshed after visiting the beach.)
Himalayan salt lamps are a good way neutralize positive ions indoors and cleanse the air. Although they won’t be as effective as an air filter, they’re much more cost-effective and look beautiful in the home.
I bought a Himalayan salt lamp last year and have started using it daily in the winter. I turn it on each night from 7 – 10 pm to help me wind down from the day and ease me into sleep.
I find that I am much more relaxed on the evenings when I use it and end up falling asleep much easier. Although I don’t think a salt lamp would cure the winter blues alone, when used in combination with these other methods, I’ve found it helps to decrease stress and create a more peaceful environment in the home.
3. Essential Oils
I love using essential oils to boost my mood, promote relaxation, and help ease me into sleep. During the winter, I find energizing essential oils to be the most helpful and have started using them daily in the morning by adding a few drops of essential oil to my shower or using them in an aromatherapy diffuser. (This one is my current favorite blend to energize my morning.)
Here are a few essential oils that help to boost mood and energize:
• Bergamot (also great for reducing stress and anxiety)
• Citrus oils like Grapefruit, Lemon, and Orange
• Mint oils like Peppermint and Spearmint
• Rosemary (also great for concentration)
4. Exercise and Mid-Day Walks
I think by now we’re all aware of the positive benefits of exercise, but it’s especially helpful to get more movement if you’re battling the winter blues. I personally love walking and yoga, which helps to ease stress and boost mood.
Since we tend to spend lots of time indoors during the winter, exercising outdoors can also help. I’ve been trying to do more mid-day walks, which is a great way to experience nature and get more light. Even a 20 – 30 minutes walk on your lunch break can make a difference!
5. Diet and Supplements
And, last but certainly not least, let’s talk about diet and supplements! 🙂
One of the particular challenges in winter is that the dreary weather and having a low mood can lead to cravings for sugar and/or carbohydrates. Of course, indulging in refined sugar or carbohydrates can cause our blood sugar to fluctuate, which can have a negative impact on mood.
In my experience, one of the best ways to deal with cravings is to find a healthy way to indulge the craving:
- Craving mashed potatoes?
- Craving creamy potato soup?
- Craving dessert?
- Craving pasta or mac and cheese?
If you’re struggling with low mood, eating a whole foods diet rich in a variety of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein can definitely help. I would also recommend looking to nature for inspiration and eating what’s in season. (There’s a reason why lots of greens and root vegetables are in season this time of year.)
In addition to an overall healthy diet, supplements are definitely key this time of year. Vitamin D and Fish Oil are great for overall health and boosting mood. (I’ve also had great results with TravaCor, which was a supplement recommended to me by my Naturopath. I take 2 capsules before bed and have noticed improved sleep, decreased anxiety, and a huge increase in my mood/energy levels.)
What are ways to beat the winter blues that have worked well for you? Share in the comments below! 🙂