Winter Blues: 13 Proven Ways to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Sonja Stewart on 23 September 2010 3 comments

It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and my energy is getting lower. Am I worried? No. Unlike last winter, this winter I am prepared with an arsenal of tips and supplements that will shake those winter blues away.

1. Fish oil

Not only is this supplement good for your heart, it helps regulate hormones, which is great for menopause, postpartum, and PMS. I take three a day when times are tough.

2. Vitamin D

When you're stuck inside all day, your body lacks vitamin D that comes from the sun naturally. This vitamin seriously boosts your immune system. (Ever wonder why we get so sick in the winter?) Take a couple 2,000 IU a day of D3 and watch how great you'll feel.

3. Vitamin B12

The dots that you place on your tongue and dissolve are better than the pills you swallow. These little pills are fantastic for energy, and will help you avoid that second cup of coffee in the morning.

4. Light Therapy

These light bulbs, which mimic the sun's rays, without the UV, are a good investment if you or your family suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. They run the gamut in pricing from around $45 to upwards of $200. It's something to consider based on the severity of your winters, and your seasonal depression.

5. Exercise

Walking is the best exercise for you. Unfortunately, if it's raining or icy where you live, an outdoor stroll is out of the question. I fell in love with Leslie Sansone Walking DVDs. You need very little space to do them, and they are as easy or as challenging as you want to make them. Add ankle/wrist weights for a challenge. My favorite is the Four Fast Mile DVD. (I swear she doesn't endorse me, or even know who I am for that matter. I lost all of my baby weight from these DVDs.) Add a yoga or pilates routine to keep your flexibility and your abs for when summer rolls around again. (We can dream.)

6. Get Dressed Up

Put on your fancy pants and shoes. Even if you're just checking the mail. Sometimes, overdressing is the best medicine.

7. Listen to Classical Music

Studies have found that listening to classical music, paired with exercise, helps to reduce depression in people. So, Pandora some Beethoven and smile.

8. Make Your Bed

This is an easy way to feel accomplished on days you are just feeling overwhelmed and trapped inside. Straighten your sheets, fluff your pillows, stand back and look at what you accomplished. This one also works to help prevent you from going back to bed. Mentally, you'll feel as is you've gotten over one task; now to take on the laundry. Ick.

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9. Skype Your Mom

Staying in contact with friends and family is paramount to a healthy emotional well being. If your family lives far, sign up for Skype. It's free, and seeing your friends pop up on your screen is such an encouraging way to start a day. Have a virtual cup of coffee with them, or toast in the New Year together.

10. Eat Seasonally

A lot of the vitamins our bodies lack in the winter can be found in foods that are ripe this time of year. Foods that are high in Calcium, Vitamin C, B, D, and A are great this time of year. Stick to apples, squash, onions, potatoes, carrots — basically brightly colored veggies and fruit that you would typically see at a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

11. Journal Every Day

Even if you aren't a writer, this is an amazingly therapeutic way to work out issues you may be dealing with that you aren't even aware of. I believe in three pages a day. Do a stream of consciousness thing, where you allow your thoughts to flow uninhibited to the page. Don't read what you've written until a week (or longer) has passed. Do it every morning before you even get out of bed. Your head will be clearer through the day, and you'll find you're more inspired to work on those projects you've been avoiding.

12. Drink Plenty of Water

Just drink plain old water. Hydrating yourself is paramount to feeling your best. It will curb cravings, flush out toxins, keep you "regular" and relieve sluggishness.

13. Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, and Sugar

I saved this for last because I know you won't do it. Just keep in mind, alcohol is a depressant. Caffeine always leaves you wanting more, and processed sugar has a direct effect on your brain activity. Limit your coffee to a cup a day, and alcohol to one or two glasses a week. Stick to dark chocolate if you have a sweet tooth. Dark chocolate has antioxidants that are helpful to rid your body of free radicals, that do cell damage.

Good luck this winter. What works for you when you get down?

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Guest

This is great, Sonja! I've never seen all of these suggestions in one succinct list - and I can especially appreciate that as my energy wanes this time of year. Thank you! I can only add one suggestion: if there's any hint of sun and you can exercise outside at mid-day to get the most powerful sun there is, that's a double-dose of goodness (and it's a lot cheaper than booking a trip to somewhere warm!).

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Kathryn

This is fabulous! When I was living in a 500 sq foot apartment in Boston with serious seasonal affective disorder, I also discovered Leslie Sansone DVDs and it was like a miracle. Now that I live in sunny Texas, I still use them year round (especially when the summers are too hot to walk outside). Highly recommended!

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J.

Great recs. I credit vitamin D and a regular bed/wake-up time with curing my SAD. Get up and see the sun, and go out for a walk -- even if it means bundling up!