10 activities to try when the winter blues are kicking your butt

6 February 2019, 18:33

Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Winter can be hard or many who battle symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just general winter blues. The sunlight is scarce and people can find it difficult to get out of bed or lift their moods. Here are a few activities and tips for anyone dealing with winter depression.

The winter months can be brutal for many. The longer nights and cold weather can cause people to feel symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, higher stress and anxiety, as well as poor moods. You probably think of these symptoms as "the winter blues".

Research from YouGov and The Weather Channel found that 29% of adults suffered from a degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), while 57% of adults said their moods were generally worse during the winter.

Winter can be a downer, especially for people who live in parts of the world where they get very few hours of sunlight. If you feel like the winter blues are really kicking your butt this year, here are a few things to try to help you get through it.

1) Plan some outdoor activities

It can be tempting to stay indoors during the winter because of the cold, dark, and, often, wet weather. No matter how much you want to stay close to home during the winter months, doing things like taking a day trip, gardening, or attending a local event (ie. a fair, market etc) can ensure you're active during the daylight hours.

You may find that something as simple as gardening for an hour might lift your mood.

Person walking on a road
Person walking down a road. . Picture: Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

2) Keep track of the days you feel most down with a bullet journal

Are there days that are worse than others? Does the colder weather affect you more or does all-day rain leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued? Being introspective about your external triggers is never a waste of time.

Bullet journal
Picture: Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

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3) Break up your daily routine

Take a day off. Book a city break. Have a long weekend. Escape to a warm city.

Do something you don't usually do. Find a way to recharge your batteries with something outside of your daily routine. The dreariness of winter can often leave us feeling like every day is the same so you might find that breaking up the monotony is one way to get out a funk.

Woman sitting in a car
Woman sitting in a car. Picture: Photo by Anthony Ginsbrook on Unsplash

4) Try a weekend bike ride

Bike riding combines fresh air, exercise, and adventure. Even if you don't own a bicycle, many cities have affordable bike share schemes that are January/February budget friendly.

Obviously, if the weather is extreme, you might give this one a pass. But, biking can be a relaxing way to get out of the house and enjoy the scarce daylight hours.

Bicycle on a path
Bicycle parked on a path. Picture: Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

5) Brighten up your space

If you're someone who spends a lot of time indoors you might consider brightening up your space. Plants, colourful decor, and wall art, for example, are nice ways to inject a little bit of upbeat energy for a time of the year that can make many of us feel lethargic and moody.

Woman sitting in a bedroom with plants and art
Woman sitting in a bedroom with plants and art. Picture: Photo by Sasha Nadelyaeva on Unsplash

6) Try light therapy.

Light therapy is a popular treatment for winter depression and SAD. It involves sitting in front of a special lamp that can help to simulate light that is often scarce during the winter months.

The NHS says that the light lamps "may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood)."

Special SAD lamps are available for purchase on Amazon and you can speak with your doctor to find out if light therapy might be something that could be beneficial for your symptoms.

Woman sitting in front of a lamp
Picture: Getty Creative

7) Create an upbeat playlist

This one doesn't require a ton of energy on your part. Create a playlist of songs you like, that you know will put you in a good mood or simply give you a burst of energy.

Playlist on a computer
Playlist on a computer. Picture: Photo by Mariah Ashby on Unsplash

8) Get outside during the daytime, even if it's just for 15 minutes.

As someone who works indoors a lot, I find that even a quick 15 minute walk in the middle of the day can have a positive effect on my mood. During the winter many of us are awake before the sun rises, indoors for much of the day, and finished with work/school after the sun has set.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you "take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun" to make sure you're getting outside in the winter.

Woman sitting on a bench
Woman sitting on a bench. Picture: Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

9) Get organised

During the winter months I find it personally agonising to keep up with chores and battle clutter. The cold, long nights make me want to head to bed earlier and stay in bed longer, so things like cleaning feel like an absolute drag. According to Psychology Today, however, clutter can make it hard to relax and can negatively impact productivity.

I know my mood can be foul (especially in winter) when things are a mess so try putting on your favourite podcast when you have a free afternoon and catch up on the mess you've been avoiding. Yes, I know. Easier said than done.

via Netflix

10) Try counselling or seek professional medical advice

It's never a bad idea to speak to a licensed professional when dealing with issues of anxiety and depression – no matter what season it is.

A doctor may also perform tests to find out if there are any other underlying health issues that are responsible for your symptoms.