Feeling the Winter Blues? 8 Ways to Beat the Winter Slump

Girl with colorful wool cap pulled over face against brick wall

"Just as the days get gradually darker and colder during the winter, you can make gradual steps to beating the winter blues without having to make any drastic changes."

Ways to Beat the Winter Slump

Whether it’s raining or snowing, or it’s just cold and gloomy outside, you may notice that you’re feeling a little gloomy yourself. Not to be confused with seasonal affective disorder (aka seasonal depression), the winter blues refer to the occasional sadness or loneliness you feel during the colder, darker months of the year. During these bouts, you may feel less energized and less interested in socializing, but you can still function, and the gloom tends to clear up in a few days or weeks. 

If you’re struggling with the winter blues, you may feel tempted to crawl into a hiding place and wait for the sun to come out. But we’re sharing eight tips that can help you feel like yourself again faster, rain or shine. 

What are the Winter Blues?

Before we share tips, it’s important to understand what the winter blues are (and what they are not).

The winter blues are feelings of low mood and decreased energy levels that typically occur during the winter months. According to experts at the National Institutes of Health, the “winter blues” is not a medical diagnosis like seasonal affective disorder, and symptoms are typically not as severe.1 They also tend to be tied to a specific issue like the holidays being over, being away from a loved one, or not being able to enjoy an outdoor activity you love. 

Symptoms of the winter blues include:

  • Feeling down or sad
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling irritable or agitated
  • Cravings for carbohydrates and weight gain

Winter Blues vs Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, on the other hand, is a medical diagnosis associated with low serotonin activity and depressive symptoms. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and studies show that sunlight promotes its synthesis and supports its ability to bind to receptors in the brain.2 When sunlight diminishes in the fall, this process becomes compromised. 

Common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Feeling depressed or sad most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Irritability
  • Lack of focus
  • Suicidal ideation

If you think you are struggling with seasonal affective disorder, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to get the support you need, especially if you are having thoughts of self-harm. To get help right away, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

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Tips to Beating the Winter Blues

While the winter blues do tend to clear up on their own, there are some steps you can take to help yourself feel better. From getting adequate sunlight to practicing mindfulness, here are eight strategic ways to beat the winter slump.

1. Get Adequate Sunlight

Exposure to natural sunlight can help regulate your body's internal clock and support serotonin production. Though sunny days may be scarce during the winter months, when there’s a hint of sunlight, try to soak it up. Even when it’s cloudy, you should aim to spend time outdoors during daylight hours to boost your mood. If getting outside isn’t possible, consider using a light therapy box, which mimics natural sunlight and can be effective in treating the winter blues.

2. Stay Active & Eat Healthy

Did you know most of your body’s serotonin is made in your gut? Following a balanced diet is a key way to support your mental health. Leafy greens, lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables supply your brain and body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function well. Exercise also amps up serotonin production and other feel-good chemicals to fuel you with energy during the day and help you sleep better at night.  

3. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Speaking of sleep, it’s another important component to maintaining a balanced mood. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends to support your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock). Limit caffeine and avoid screens before bedtime, which can interfere with sleep, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to rest.

4. Socialize and Connect

You may feel less inclined to socialize with friends and loved ones when you’re feeling down, but it might just be the pick-me-up you need. Studies show that having positive social interactions with others increases serotonin in the brain.3 Make an effort to maintain social connections, even if it means scheduling virtual gatherings or an old-fashioned phone call.

5. Practice Mindfulness & Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation are just a few relaxation techniques you can use to help reduce stress and improve mood. If you have a busy mind and little time, feel free to start small. Studies show that even a brief meditation can enhance mood, attention, memory, and emotional regulation in newbies.4 Incorporate these techniques into your daily routine to promote relaxation and emotional well-being.

6. Try OTC Medications

If you need more support, consider taking a non-prescription medication like Brillia, which is clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, irritability, and restlessness without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia contains antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein, which becomes elevated during periods of increased stress.5 When this protein is blocked with an antibody, the symptoms related to the body’s stress response are significantly reduced, helping you to feel clearer and calmer. 

Brillia is a gentle and impactful medication, so it must be taken consistently to see results. If you know that you struggle with the winter blues or SAD every year, it’s possible to take Brillia seasonally. Just be sure you start taking the medication before the symptoms appear if they tend to follow a pattern. It can take two to three weeks for Brillia’s active ingredient to build up in the system, though it may take longer, and your body depends on a steady trickle of the active ingredient to work effectively. To ensure success, it’s important that you take the correct dosage of Brillia and follow the guidelines in our 5 Pillar approach, which combines the medication with healthy lifestyle habits, like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. Each of these science-backed habits is proven to improve stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms while supporting a balanced mood. Find out more about our holistic approach and how Brillia helps both children and adults

7. Set Realistic Goals

Just as the days get gradually darker and colder during the winter, you can make gradual steps to beating the winter blues without having to make any drastic changes. Set realistic goals like meditating three times a week to build your mindfulness routine or taking short walks every day to build up your exercise routine. Make a list of goals you hope to accomplish by the time spring arrives and then celebrate in the sunshine when you get there.   

8. Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Even the busiest schedules need moments of joy and fun. Make time for activities that bring you fulfillment, whether it's pursuing a new hobby or an old favorite, spending time with loved ones, or volunteering in your community. Engaging in pleasurable activities can give you something to look forward to while supporting your mental health.

Remember the Winter Blues are Perfectly Normal

Feeling down or sluggish during the winter months is a common experience for many people, and it's important to remember that the winter blues are a normal response to seasonal changes. However, if you experience persistent or severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life, it's essential to seek support from a healthcare professional. They can help assess your symptoms and recommend an appropriate plan to meet your needs. 

To find more tips and resources on supporting mental health, visit the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/01/beat-winter-blues, 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779905/, 3https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0180391#abstract0, 4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30153464/, 5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22145907/
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