Beating the Winter Blues

January 4, 2023

Dark mornings, darker evenings, chilly gray days, and the end of the holiday season mean winter is here to stay for a while. During this period of limited sunlight and less time spent outdoors, many of us can experience some mood changes. It is estimated that 10-20 percent of Americans will have some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly called “SAD”) through the winter months.

But there is hope! Here are five simple things you can start doing now to decrease the impact of seasonal-related mood changes.

(1) Stay connected.  Maintaining connected relationships with friends and family will help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Consider planning a weekly call or in-person “catch up” to stay on track.

(2) Find some humor.  We all have heard that laughter is the best medicine. Experts believe that laughter stimulates processes in your brain to counter depressive symptoms. So, cue up the comedies on Netflix or get tickets to that comedy show. Laughter is contagious so be sure to share it with friends!

(3) Create a manageable to-do list. It is important to build activities into your day that bring you a sense of accomplishment. As humans we have an inherent need to be productive and competent in order to grow emotionally and maintain wellbeing. Even household chores like cleaning the fridge can provide this sense of satisfaction.

(4) Pay attention to your diet. Certain foods have been proven to help boost mood and brain health due to their unique nutrient compounds.

  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, herring, and mackerel.
  • Incorporate into your diet leafy greens and vegetables that contain folic acid, such as spinach, turnips, and broccoli.
  • Bananas are a great source of vitamin B and help the body produce serotonin, a natural mood-booster.
  • Yogurt is rich in live cultures and probiotics, which can reduce anxiety and elevate mood.
  • Blueberries contain antioxidants to boost short-term memory.
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, ginger beer, and miso contain beneficial bacterium known for reducing symptoms of depression.

(5) Consider light therapy. One of the believed causes of winter mood decline is a decrease in exposure to sunlight. Increased time indoors and shorter daylight hours mean a lack of exposure to sunlight. That can disrupt our body’s circadian rhythms, causing a drop in serotonin and Vitamin D, which can lead to depressive symptoms. Using a full-spectrum light box can help you regain your hormonal balance and make you feel more energized.

McLean’s Boundless Wellness programming is based on seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, physical, intellectual, social, vocational, environmental, and spiritual. Our Boundless program publishes a brief monthly newsletter for the community; if you would like to be added to the email distribution list, please email

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