Expert Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Easy ways to improve your mood during the winter months

If during the winter you sometimes experience low energy levels, a lack of motivation, and general feelings of negativity and sadness, it’s not just you.

It’s estimated that nearly 10 million American’s suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and another one to two million are known to experience a more mild form of the condition, simply known as the “winter blues.”

According to Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that most commonly occurs during the late autumn and winter months (although less common variations of the disorder can occur during warm-weather months as well).  Among other things, symptoms typically include tiredness, fatigue, poor sleep, and decreased activity levels.

Though it’s a serious depressive condition, SAD can be difficult to diagnose. So if you think that your symptoms are more severe than a common case of the winter blues, you should contact a mental health professional.  

Less serious episodes can typically be treated with some simple fixes, though.

“When the ‘winter blues’ hit, what we notice is often low energy and motivation, feeling down, and frequently, also a pull to isolate. Often, that can actually make the mood worse,” says Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., a private–practice Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University. “It can be helpful to be mindful of that tendency to want to hide out and stay away from it all, and to acknowledge it, and then to try to act opposite to that pull. Instead of isolating, trying to connect with family, loved ones, and friends.”

If cloudy winter days and chilly temperatures have led you to feel slightly sad, melancholy, and un-energetic, try lifting your spirits and improving your mood by incorporating the following tips and tricks into your daily routine.

Keep an active calendar.

“We tend to be far more social during the summer months and at the end of the year,” says Vanessa Pawlowski, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist who practices privately in Beverly Hills Calif. “Then once January hits, you might notice that your social life slows down significantly. Spending too much time at home might leave you feeling blue after a while. Try to plan ahead of time the right amount of activities that you need to keep a good rhythm going.”

Shift your focus.

“During this season we hear people complaining a lot about winter,” Pawlowski added. “Can you shift your focus and recognize the parts of winter that you do like? What can you do during this time that you can't do any other time of the year? Do you have any traditions that you can start to make winter a more meaningful time for you?” She continued on to explain that creating positive wintertime experiences will help to keep the blues at bay. 

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