The winter can be a tough time for many of us, especially after the excitement of the holidays dies down. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gloomy and we’ve eaten all the leftover candy.  In addition, many people suffer from a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which makes those affected feel especially sad and sluggish during the winter months. But there’s good news. Even if it’s too cold or dreary to head outdoors, there are ways to beat the winter blues in the comfort of your own home. Here are five tips to cheer you up during the winter – no need to put on your shoes or grab your coat.

Let There Be Light

One of the main factors leading to winter depression is the noticeable lack of sunlight. The days are shorter and it’s often overcast (or snowing). The solution: maximize the amount of sunlight in your home.  There are a few simple decorating tips that will make your house brighter and more pleasant in any season, but especially winter.

  • Open the drapes. Consider swapping heavy drapes for lighter curtains that admit more sunlight (go for translucent, not see-through – you still need your privacy, after all).
  • Still have an air conditioner in the window? Remove it. You’ll get more sunlight.
  • Mirrors will increase any sunlight that does manage to enter your house. Place them strategically opposite windows. Mirrors also visually expand your space.
  • Speaking of windows, make sure they’re sparkling clean – light doesn’t travel well through dirty glass.
  • Finally, if you have SAD, or if the darkness is just putting you in a bad mood, consider investing in a lightbox. A lightbox (sometimes called a sun box, sun lamp or light therapy box) serves as an artificial sunlight source (with the harmful UVA/UVB rays filtered out, so don’t expect to get a suntan with a lightbox)  Light therapy boxes can be purchased online and typically start at about $50. Still have money in your Health Savings Account (HAS) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? Not only can you pay for a massage with HSA/FSA funds, you can also pay for a lightbox if you have a doctor’s diagnosis for SAD.
  • If you’re shopping for a home and know that you’re prone to the winter blues, make good lighting a prerequisite of any apartment or house purchase.

Massage Does a Body Good

If winter is making you miserable and sluggish, a massage could help! The health benefits of massage are many: it has the dual effect of improving your mood and getting your blood pumping – literally, as it boosts circulation in the body.  Massage is also great for easing muscle aches and cramps (if slogging through slush or shoveling snow has given you back pain). Finally, massage raises levels of the hormone serotonin in your brain, increasing your feelings of happiness.

Of course, leaving your home to get a massage isn’t always the most appealing thing to do in winter weather. Zeel created an app that brings a massage therapist to your house, even when it’s freezing outside.

Get More Vitamin D

Scientists believe that vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for many cases of SAD and winter blues. A lack of vitamin D can impair serotonin production and make us more susceptible to depression. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D – but we typically don’t expose a lot of skin to the sun during the winter.

Fortunately, there are many good sources of it that you can eat, such as wild-caught fish (if that’s too pricey, canned tuna is just as effective), milk (either whole or reduced fat will do), shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks. Don’t rely on your new lightbox for vitamin D – since UVA/UVB rays are screened out, they won’t spur your body to produce the vitamin.

Invite People Over

If your mood is down, one cure is to surround yourself with friends.  And you don’t even need to leave home; let your pals come to your place. Even a small studio can become a comfortable place to host parties. Consider a potluck (make sure to choose healthy winter foods and vitamin D-rich nibbles), a board game night or a favorite show or big game viewing party.  Studies have shown that surrounding yourself with supportive friends reduces stress and can make you healthier too.

Learn Something New

Use your indoor hours to take up a new hobby. Studies show that hobbies can reduce stress and lift mood – in fact, they may be just as useful as exercise in making you happier and healthier.  Some options for indoor activities that beat winter blues include crafting, cooking, exercise, reading, learning a new language and more.

What are some ways you plan to beat the blues this winter season? Let us know in the comments below.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. My husband & I take a walk out back. We live on some acerage & the snow is beautiful ! The walk is invigorating , better than getting on my stationary bike. weve also taken up bird watching. My hubby bought me a bird feeder which is attracting several bird species. I never knew how many we had on our property!! So cool & very relaxing. While I’m still tempted to fly south, I want to stay debt free!

  2. First of all, you need to understand that in winter, you don’t produce vitamin D from sun exposure unless you live in Southern States (in the northern hemisphere) through the subtropics and tropics. In the north, the UVB light, which is required to produce vitamin D in the skin, is not available in winter, because it is filtered out by the atmosphere. The good news is that we don’t need vitamin D for mood. You mentioned light, and that is the key: especially sunlight, which enhances mood dramatically, summer or winter. Serotonin is produced in the brain under the influence of bright light.
    Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light. To do this, they drew blood samples from the internal jugular veins of 101 men and compared the serotonin concentration of the blood to weather conditions and seasons. The results were remarkable: Men who were measured on a very bright day produced eight times more serotonin than those who were measured on a cloudy, dismal day. They also observed that the effect of bright light was immediate, and that there was no holdover from day to day. There we have another answer to SAD. When the sun is shining, winter or summer, wherever you are, take advantage of it. It will elevate your mood and make you feel more alive. More information: http://sunlightinstitute.org/

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