Singing the (winter) blues? Eight tips to help you change your tune

Image credit: under the covers by Ginny, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

When winter hits, do you feel depressed? Do you lose the desire to get out of bed and feel like even if you do, there’s no point because you have absolutely no motivation?

I do.

I struggle with the winter blues (also referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder)—to the point where I often consider seeing my doctor to request pharmacological assistance dealing with my symptoms—but usually spring arrives just when I’ve gotten to my most desperate point, and the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere snaps me out of my dour mood and restores energy to my days.

Over the years, I have developed some coping mechanisms to help get me through the rough times and get me out of bed. Here are some of the tools I carry in my mental health toolbox:

  1. Confuse your brain: laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. Read humor blogs. Hyperbole and a Half, The Bloggess and The Oatmeal are some of my go-to sources of reading material. Go to YouTube and search “laughing baby.” Watching others laugh is contagious (and doubly so if it’s a cute baby with a toothless grin)!
  2. Crank up some of your favorite music and dance like a fool in your living room.
  3. Get a light therapy box and a sunlight simulating alarm clock (if you use your smartphone as your alarm clock, there are apps available). These two things changed my life and help me get my butt out of bed.
  4. Instead of hiding in your house on your day off, go outside. Sunlight is available in precious little amounts this time of year; don’t squander it by staying inside all day. If you can’t get outside, keep your curtains open and try to do your work by a window so you can take in some natural light.
  5. Make plans with a friend. It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but you’d be amazed how much better you feel when you take the time to make yourself presentable and go out into the world. Plus, you get to see a friend and find out what’s new.
  6. Exercise daily. This is a recommendation I tried for the first time this year. I’ve been getting up at the butt crack of dawn—which is a bit of a challenge—but it gets the chore out of the way before the day’s other priorities convince me to skip my workout. I was skeptical about the benefits of exercise, but it does help.
  7. Infuse your life with color. Something about bright colors perks up my mood. I just bought a bright orange cutting board and it makes me ridiculously happy every time I see it.
  8. Eat good stuff. Stuff that most people would consider a “healthy, well-balanced diet.” Eat things other than potatoes and pasta, even though Carbohydrates is the only food group you want to ingest. (No, that’s just me?) Florida oranges are in season this time of year and you get a dose of color while peeling an orange.

I am by no means an expert in treating the winter blues; these are just some things that work for me. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and sometimes more intensive help is needed. If you’re struggling please, please (please!) talk to your doctor.

Do you struggle with the winter blues? What tips/tricks/tools do you use to make it to spring? I’d love to hear about them; please share in the comments.