1. Go outside within two hours of waking up.
Even if it’s cold, taking a walk around the block and soaking in in the natural daylight will help mollify your blahs.
2. Get a light box.
Light therapy has been reported to work in 80% of all cases of SAD. Some research shows that blue light may be slightly more effective at reducing seasonal affective disorder symptoms than other types of light.
Doctors recommend sitting near your light box for 30 minutes each morning.
(I got one for only $40 on Amazon, and it could just be the placebo effect, but I swear it works.)
3. Take vitamin D supplements.
One study conducted during winter on 44 people without seasonal affective disorder found that vitamin D supplements produced improvements in various measures of mood.
4. Eat more complex carbohydrates.
You might crave junk food and greasy comforting things like pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese during the sluggish, cold winter months, but stuffing yourself with sugar and refined flours will only make you feel even grosser.
Complex carbs take longer to digest, which means they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar that can create roller-coaster moods; they also increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Opt for whole grains and complex carbs like spinach, yams, broccoli, beans, zucchini, lentils, skim milk, and more, which will fill you up while also providing long-lasting nourishment.
5. Make your house brighter.
It’s all about getting as much natural light into your house or apartment as possible. Keep your blinds and curtains totally open during the day, and if necessary, trim the bushes around your windows. Use bright colors on your walls and light-colored upholstery. Clutter can be mentally discouraging, so clean your room and house as often as possible.
6. Stay social.
Though it’s tempting to hibernate and avoid going out completely in the winter — it gets dark at 4 p.m.! — force yourself to go to parties and maintain your favorite social activities. Lolling around on your couch marathoning Sherlock feels good in the moment, but in the long run being around your friends will brighten your mood way more.
7. Make your bed every day.
It’s a simple way to feel accomplished. Bonus: It will keep you from getting back into it!
8. Take a winter vacation.
Save up your frequent flyers miles and vacation time for the winter months, not the summer months. If you can’t stand the cold, a February trip to Florida or California can be just what you need to make it through the brutal sleet ‘n’ snow season. Or if snow is kind of your fancy, escape to a cabin or make a skiing trip. Getting a change of scenery in the winter is seriously underrated!
9. Get some exercise.
Who wants to go to the gym when there are so many grilled cheese sandwiches to be consumed? I know, I know. But physical exercise is a proven depression buster, so don’t use winter as an excuse to miss out on all those awesome mood-enhancing endorphins and neurotransmitters.
10. Buy a Christmas tree.
…Or indulge in another festive splurge that will give your everyday routine a little pizzazz. Last year when I had the holiday blues, I impulse-bought a mini tree for $40 outside the grocery store. Plugging in the tree lights when I got home and enjoying that magical aroma of pine instantly brightened my mood.
11. Keep a set sleep schedule.
Sleeping until noon on winter Saturdays feels motherfucking heavenly, but if you can, try to adhere to a regular sleeping schedule. Because face it, spending a whole day in bed only makes you feel guilty about all that stuff you should be doing. Right? Right.
12. Limit your caffeine intake.
Soda with caffeine spikes your insulin levels and drops blood sugar levels, contributing to a sense of fatigue. All of that caffeinated coffee and tea can be dehydrating too. Blerg.
13. If your symptoms are persistent, visit your primary care physician.
Even though some people might dismiss SAD as mere “winter blues,” there’s no shame in seeing a therapist or doctor if your symptoms aren’t relenting. Your health professional will walk you through your options, which might include a regimen of light therapy, psychotherapy, or anti-depression medication.