Feeling blue? These 10 tips can help you brighten your mood naturally.
When temperatures drop and daylight dwindles, it’s normal to feel a little blue. The winter season is naturally a time to move inward, live slower, and “hibernate.”
But, when the winter blues start to impact your daily life, it’s more than just a natural shift. This is Seasonal Affective Disorder: a common mental health condition that affects over 10 million people each year.
Thankfully, there are many ways to manage and prevent seasonal depression. Read on to learn 10 simple tips to brighten your mood naturally this winter!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is much more than feeling more tired during the winter. It is a type of depression that comes on at the same time of year, every year.
Many of the symptoms of SAD are similar to classic depression: sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in things you once loved, fatigue, lethargy, and withdrawal from social activities.
There is no single cause of SAD. In most cases, however, there are several contributing factors that lead to low moods and other symptoms:
- Reduced light exposure
- Low vitamin D levels
- Hormone imbalances
- Drops in serotonin or melatonin levels
- Poor sleep or changing sleep schedules
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Increased stress and high cortisol levels
10 Ways to Prevent the Winter Blues and Boost Your Mood Naturally
You don’t have to dread the winter! Boost your mood naturally with these simple tips:
1. Eat more brain food.
Like any machine, the brain needs the right fuel to function properly. Without the proper nutrients, the brain becomes more susceptible to fatigue and stress and mood imbalances (like seasonal depression and brain fog) can result.
To keep your brain happy and healthy, eat more brain food! Brain foods tend to be high in healthy fats, B vitamins, and antioxidants, as well as being free from additives, chemicals, or sugar. Try adding more of these mood-boosting brain foods into your daily diet:
2. Supplement with Vitamin D.
One of the most common causes of seasonal depression is a lack of vitamin D. Without regular exposure to sunlight, your body relies on your diet to get the vitamin D it needs to maintain a healthy mood balance (as well as dozens of other functions).
To help increase your winter vitamin D levels, supplement your diet with vitamin D-rich foods like mushrooms, oily fish, egg yolks, and cod liver oil.
Unfortunately, most people struggle to get enough vitamin D to stay balanced in winter on these food sources alone. That’s why I recommend most of my patients take a quality vitamin D supplement in winter. This not only helps to prevent seasonal depression, but also supports a healthy musculoskeletal and immune system, too!
3. Exercise for at least 20 minutes each day.
Nothing beats the feeling you get after a good workout. But did you know that those post-exercise feel-good effects can also build up your resistance to stress and depression?
Research shows that regular moderate exercise not only improves your physical health, but has natural mood-boosting effects that rival most depression medications.
4. Try light therapy.
The obvious way to brighten the dark, dreary days of winter is more light! Thankfully, technology makes that possible with products like light therapy boxes and “wake-up” clocks.
But does light therapy really work? In most cases, yes – light therapy is likely to balance your mood and help you stay positive in winter. One recent study showed that 83% of individuals with mild SAD reported that their mood and health improved significantly after receiving light therapy.
Other studies show that using light therapy throughout winter can help prevent seasonal depression in the first place.
5. Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
The light and temperature changes in fall and winter can easily throw even the most regular sleepers off-schedule. Unfortunately, irregular sleep patterns only worsen our mood imbalances.
To keep your sleep regular and keep the winter blues at bay, set a sleep schedule and stick to it! Aim for 7-9 hours each night and avoid too much digital stimulation in the hour or two before bed. Just as it’s important to get enough sleep, it’s also important to not get too much. Avoid sleeping longer than 9 hours or lingering in bed. Get up, embrace the day, then enjoy a balanced, restful sleep later.
6. Take a break outside.
Regular breaks are necessary for good mental health, especially in winter. Make your breaks even more therapeutic by taking them outside!
Studies prove that spending time outside in nature reduces stress levels and has a significant positive impact on those with depression and anxiety. Not only does it help you manage or prevent SAD, but a regular break in the great outdoors also enhances focus, productivity, and cognitive skills. So wrap up, step outside, and restore your mind!
7. Practice a hobby, skill, or craft.
Winter is a great time to return to any creative hobbies you’ve neglected (art, music, DIY, online learning, or whatever you enjoy!). In fact, your favorite activities can become a form of meditation or therapy to help you get through the winter (or any tough time) with more ease.
8. Try aromatherapy.
Your sense of smell has a powerful effect on your wellbeing and mental health. With aromatherapy, you can quickly and naturally boost your mood and keep seasonal depression at bay.
Aromatherapy works by stimulating the cell receptors in your nose, which then directly communicate with your brain. Here, they send messages to the nervous system and limbic system to balance your emotions.
Based on the essential oils you diffuse, you ease stress and feel more calm, or increase your energy and boost your mood. Other oils help you feel more connected, sleep deeper, or even increase your self-confidence. Here are a few helpful oils to try:
To Calm Stress and Relax:
To Feel Uplifted and Energized:
- Grapefruit (or any citrus oil)
To Balance Your Mood:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
9. Be social.
Loneliness is just one aspect of SAD, but it can have a severe impact on your mental health.
Combat the blues by scheduling regular times to meet up or chat with a friend who makes you feel good. Bring healthy snacks and your best memories! Laughter instantly reduces stress-causing hormones in the blood and is an effective way to banish the winter blues.
Pass on the good vibes by joining a social group or volunteering with an organization you believe in. Not only will you help improve your own mood (science proves it!), you’ll make the world a better place for the people you help.
10. Invest in your wellness.
Sometimes it takes more than a few healthy habits to fight the winter blues. When seasonal depression starts to impact your daily life, it’s time to call in the experts and get back on track.
At Moringa Natural Health Center, we look at the whole picture of your health (including your biological data, lifestyle, and habits) to create a wellness plan that supports your mind and body through the seasons.
We believe that no one should have to suffer through winter feeling lonely, depressed, or stressed. With integrative treatments, you can regain your emotional balance through winter and beyond!
Call us at 623-266-0059, or request an appointment to find out how an individualized naturopathic treatment plan can help you achieve your wellness goals.
Dr. Lena Fernandez