How to beat the winter blues

Don’t let the dark days get the better of you. Read our top tips for beating the winter blues

It’s that time of year again – you know the drill. The nights are drawing in, the days are getting shorter and the warm summer weather is a thing of the past.

You’re not alone if you experience a change in your mood and energy levels as the temperature drops, it’s totally normal. But for some people the change in season leaves them feeling more than just a little meh. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues, is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. The exact cause is still unknown but it’s thought to be caused by reduced sunlight during the shorter winter days.

If your mood mirrors the dark weather outside and you think you’re experiencing SAD symptoms, speak with your GP to discuss how you’re feeling and find out more about treatment options available.

Top tips to help beat the winter blues

Has the gloomy weather left you feeling a little blue? There are a number of simple things you can do to help put the spring back in your step.

Soak up the sunshine

As the nights draw in, don’t let lack of daylight get the better of you. Wrap up and try to get outside whenever you can to help lift your mood. With shorter days in the winter, this might mean taking a few minutes of your lunch break to walk outside – which is good for your physical as well as your mental health (win-win). Try to sit by a window and open your blinds or curtains to allow natural sunlight in when you’re inside.

Try a SAD lamp

During the dark days, light therapy can help to make up for the lack of natural sunlight available. This involves sitting by a lamp that mimics natural outdoor light for around 30 minutes to an hour each day. If you’re finding it hard to shake that sluggish feeling in the morning, a sunrise-stimulating alarm clock could become your best friend. It works by gradually lighting up your bedroom to help you wake gently.

Keep moving

When the temperature drops, finding the motivation to exercise can be tough. Let’s face it, diving under the duvet sounds a lot more appealing than lacing up your trainers and getting active. But before you throw in the towel, remember that exercise releases dopamine and serotonin (AKA the ‘feel good’ hormones).

If heading out for a run isn’t your thing, why not find an online HIIT class or yoga session? Even a walk in the park will get the good vibes flowing.

Get creative

Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to wave goodbye to your hobbies and park yourself in front of the TV until spring rolls around. Keeping your mind active with a new hobby can be a great distraction if you're struggling with the winter blues. It could be anything, starting a new book, learning a new language, experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes or finally ticking something off your bucket list. All that’s important is that you have something to concentrate on and look forward to. 

Sleep tight but sleep right

As the dark evenings draw in, you may feel like going into hibernation mode. Resist temptation and avoid going to bed too early in the evening. If you sleep too much, chances are you'll feel even more sluggish. Aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep a night and try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Want to learn more about catching those Zs? Check out our top tips for a great night’s sleep.

It can be hard to admit that you don't actually feel that great, but it’s totally OK to not feel OK.

Reach out to those you care about

If you’re battling the winter blues, don’t hide away from the outside world. It’s important to stay in touch with those close to you. It can be hard to admit that you don't actually feel that great, but it’s totally OK to not feel OK at this time of year. Or any time. Talking about your feelings can improve your mood and make it easier to deal with the tough times. Create a space for these conversations. Make an effort to keep in touch with those you care about and if you feel up to it, accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.

Curb your cravings

When it’s frosty outside and you’re cosy inside, we know it’s far more tempting to reach for sugar loaded comfort foods than a salad. Remember though, a healthy and balanced diet will give you more energy, boost your mood and help you maintain a healthy weight over winter. Try to balance your cravings for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Boost your vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It’s found in a small number of foods and the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we’re outside. In the UK between October and early March, it's almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone without jetting off and soaking up the sunshine somewhere hot. As it's also difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, you might want to think about taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.

Remember, if you feel like you’re not coping, don’t hide away. Speak with your GP to help sort things out.