Three Ways to Fight Back The Winter Blues

shoveling snow

It’s that time of year, again.

Instagram becomes nothing but photos of your friends shoveling snow or eating carbs. You snuggle deeper into your significant other(s) even if you’re tired of processing about why your ex who is still on your Netflix account. Netflix interrupts your seventh binge watching session of substandard sitcoms from the 80s and 90s to ask “are you really sure you want to keep viewing? Wouldn’t you process with your partner about your ex?”

It may seem like it’s the cold weather and ice and snow keeping you indoors, but you could be suffering from a form of seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder aka the winter blues, aka winter depression aka “wow I can’t believe I just ate a pint of ice cream using a candy bar as a spoon.”

Full-blown seasonal affective disorder is now considered a type of major depressive episode rather than its own unique brand of depression. If your seasonal sadness keeps you from functioning it’s worth a trip to a health care provider to see if you might benefit from antidepressant medication or light therapy. If you don’t currently see a mental health provider, you can even start this process by talking to your primary care person.

For most people, seasonal sadness does not become full-blown seasonal depression and some self-help and self-care interventions can make a big difference. For example, try:

Exercise. I know, I know, who wants to go for a run when it’s so cold and dark out? But anything that raises your heart rate can help with moderating winter blues. Any physical activity that is. Watching scary movies probably won’t do it. Surely you can think of some fun activity that would elevate your heart rate, right?

Go outside, preferably when it’s light out. This one seems obvious, but if you have a long commute and work typical daytime hours, it is entirely possible in the winter to both leave your house and return to your house in the dark. In addition to making you feel like you’re losing at life (or maybe that’s just me projecting) this isn’t a great idea from a physiological point of view, let alone a psychological one. Even a ten minute walk at a lunch hour or break can make a difference in your mood.

Force social plans a bit. When it’s cold and dark and you don’t feel like navigating the icy sidewalks of a city that has given up on shoveling (I’m looking at you, Brooklyn) the idea of going out can seem ludicrous. But studies have shown that socialization makes a huge difference in preventing the development of full-blown seasonal depression.

Finally, celebrate what is actually positive about seasonal sadness; experts believe it may have served a¬†historically important evolutionary function by slowing us down in the winter months when we didn’t access to as much food. Maybe this is the time of the year where you start writing your long awaited novel, take up an indoor hobby or find something else fun to do in the dark.