10 Steps to Beat the Winter Blues

Weather got you down?

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Words by Lisa Hughes
November 18th, 2016

Instagram-worthy walks with the leaves falling, swapping your boring Americano for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, splurging on chunky new knits – we call all agree that autumn really is the best season. The downside? Fall is just too fleeting and winter is right around the corner.

For a lot of people, winter has a real impact on mood. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s dark as you leave for work and darker when you’re trudging home. No matter how many blankets or scarves you throw on, you’re ALWAYS COLD. Pretty soon everything is annoying you and you start to wonder if you can make ‘human hibernation’ happen. We feel you, buddy.

Of course, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a different story. A form of depression brought on by the change of seasons, SAD affects more than 12 million people across northern Europe, including children. If your winter blues is stopping you living your life, talk to your GP.

Here’s our 10 tips to beat the winter blues:

1. See the light! In winter, your body is crying out for light so make sure you get outdoors and into the daylight for an hour a day, if you can. Medical experts say light therapy (where you sit near an artificial light box) for as little as 30 minutes a day can be as good as antidepressants for SAD. But it can be as simple as opening up your curtains, moving your desk near a window or trying a dawn simulator (a light connected to a traditional alarm clock that wakes you up gradually).

2. Chocolate! Believe it or not, quality dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa) is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s essential for serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness and positive vibes. Avoid sugary sweets or simple carbs though because, while they’ll give you a brief warm fuzzy feeling, the slump afterwards will only increase feelings of anxiety and depression.

3. Plan a holiday so you have something to look forward to. A winter sun break in January or February will get you away from the bleakest months, get your vitamin D fix and holidays tend to be cheaper in these months so your bank balance won’t get a dose of the blues too.

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4. Embrace Hygge in your home. Read our guide to the Danish ‘secret to happiness’ hygge here.

5. Take up a new hobby. Join a book club, make your own winter reading list, learn how to embroider or crochet, attend a night class to upskill, learn a new language. Whatever you pick, keep busy, get your brain ticking over and you’ll have less time to dwell on the long, dark evenings.

6. Volunteer. Do something good for someone else for an authentic warm feeling inside. Animal shelters in particular are always looking for cuddlers who can hold and stroke the animals for an hour a day and patting an animal has actually been proven to release serotonin. Like you needed an excuse to play with puppies.

7. Supercharge your soundtrack. Research in 2013 by the University of Missouri found that upbeat music successfully improved the mood of study participants who were feeling down. So skip Adele for the next 3 months and load your Spotify playlists with Disclosure, Flume, Odesza, classic Chemical Brothers or good old disco classics.

8. Move it. Is there anything exercise can’t cure? Relax, we don’t mean intensive cardio here, exercise could just be mild stretches on a yoga mat while you watch Home & Away. Anything to get the blood pumping and, in turn, release endorphins is a good thing.

9. Captain Obvious says… Keep warm. Feeling cold makes you feel even more down so keep warm by sipping hot water and lemon throughout the day (your skin will thank you for it), eat hearty warm meals loaded with wholegrain, complex carbs and keep your home between 18C and 21C. Toasty!

10. Socialise. Winter can feel a bit isolating for even the most popular guy or gal (hey, even Oprah has SAD) so meet friends and family as often as you can. You know that friend you keep saying “we have to meet up soon!” to but never actually do it? Meet her! Stop saying no to after work drinks and always pick a pub with a roaring fire so you can sit in front of. After work gossip, cocktail in hand and a warm fire – what winter blues?

Read our guide on how to dress for winter when you hate winter here!