How to Cope with the Winter Blues

How to Cope with the Winter Blues, SAD, Seasonal Depression


It feels like Winter is upon us. It was a rainy, cold Halloween. With the end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend, the days are noticeably shorter. And, of course, the holiday season can be difficult. This is the time of year when many people notice an increase in stress and depression. There are some simple things that you can do to help.


7 Ways to Cope with the Winter Blues

Get More Light

Get outside during daylight hours. Just 20-30 minutes of sun exposure can make a difference. I’m not talking about sunbathing or tanning. A short walk on your lunch hour can be great. When inside, turn on some bright lights. You can also consider light therapy if you’ve been diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Light therapy involves sitting in front of a bright light for 30 minutes or more per day during winter months.


Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can help refocus you from negatives to positives. I suggest writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day. If you find it difficult, start small (a hot shower, food in the refrigerator, a hug from your child).


Stay Active

Exercise has been shown to be an effective way to improve mood and decrease depression. Again, since we tend to be more sedentary in the winter, it’s helpful to schedule some exercise or wear a pedometer.


Create a Pleasant Indoor Space

We spend more time inside during winter months. Therefore, it’s a great time to create an attractive, comforting indoor space. Your physical space can also impact how you feel. Making a few inexpensive changes (maybe new paint, framing a favorite photo, or a couple of decorative pillows) or just cleaning out some clutter can make your space and mood a bit lighter.


Make Healthy Food and Drink Choices

The next few months are prime time for overeating and drinking. The holidays are filled with an abundance of food; social gatherings and parties offer more treats and alcoholic drinks. We also have cravings for “comfort foods” (high carb/high fat) and a tendency to sit inside more than in warmer months. It’s easy to gain a few pounds and feel sluggish. So, make an effort to stay close to your normal, healthier eating habits (at least most of the time) and it will positively affect your mood as well as your waistline. And remember that alcohol is a depressant, so use it in moderation.


Listen to your Favorite Music

Music has a huge impact on our emotional state. Music has a way of getting into your soul. Jam out to whatever kind of music you like. It doesn’t have to be “happy” or “uplifting” music to be therapeutic.


Spend time with your pets

If you have a pet, you already know that pets can be both fun and calming. When you’re feeling down, spend some extra time petting your cat or playing catch with your dog. You’ll both be happier!


I hope you’ll give some of these ideas for coping with the winter blues a try. And if you feel suicidal, hopeless, or depressed, please consult your primary care doctor, emergency room, or mental health professional immediately. You matter!



©Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.