The Winter Blues: Strategies for Fighting S.A.D.

By: Sandy Churchill

Freezing weather is upon us, the earth quiets, and our windows look out on a nearly-monochrome world. While winter has its share of seasonal gifts to be savored, many of us struggle with the shorter days, grey skies, and diminished sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is gaining understanding as an area related to the world of depression and anxiety, but amid COVID-19 isolation, it can be the last straw, relatively speaking.

With rising COVID numbers, many of us are more cooped up than usual. It’s freezing outside. It’s dark. The news is bleak and discouraging. So what are we to do? There are a number of strategies we can use to combat S.A.D. These may not serve as a one-size-fits-all magical solution, but may help in navigating the dark days of winter.

Try a Happy Light!

Amazon and other sources sell versions of S.A.D. or “happy lights,” which are essentially portable lightboxes that mimic the nature of sunlight. Personally, I have found success with these and truly notice a lifting of my spirit and energy with just 15 minutes a day of the happy light.

Get Moving

Exercise seems to be the purported “cure-all” for everything from heart health and longevity to weight loss and diabetes, but it really does make a difference in battling the blues. Cardio, weights, rowing machine, stationary bike, treadmill, or walks in the great outdoors can get your blood pumping, and also boost that serotonin and lift your mood in a noticeable manner.

Seek the Green

Sometimes experiencing just a bit of green—by visiting a flower show, stopping by a greenhouse, or spending time at a florist—can gift your spirit with a bit of that springtime feeling. For me, even the scent of mulch lifts my winter blues!

Set Reading Goals

While the weather is perfect for snuggling up under a blanket or cozying by the fire, this can be a great time to set some reading goals. Commit to tackling a few classics perhaps you never got around to reading (or appreciating) as a teen, embrace a new genre, or try an author “sweep” by delving into the entire collection of a favorite mystery, fantasy, thriller, or action novelist.

Take Advantage of Online “Tours”

Explore the online galleries of Vincent van Gogh, hop onto the giraffe or panda cams at zoos near and far, or peruse virtual “tours” of historical attractions online. The options are nearly endless!

Optimize the Indoors

Seek out local attractions or use memberships—to visit science museums, observatories, art galleries, and such—when the weather is gloomy and you’re not missing any glorious sunshine by spending a Saturday indoors. Take in a concert or symphony for a special treat on a snowy afternoon.

Plan Ahead

Do you have the spirit of a gardener lurking in your soul? Are home-grown vegetables among your obsession? Peruse a garden catalog, order flower and vegetable seeds, join a Community Share of Agriculture (C.S.A.) in your area, or ponder other spring projects for the return of warm weather. Sometimes, just the thought of sun and fun can lift your winter blues and signal that sunnier days are coming!


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