11 Ways to Make Winter a Little Brighter
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, many people’s mood drops. Even if you don’t suffer from seasonal depression, adjusting to less daylight can be very difficult. If you’ve ever felt a “blah” at dusk at the start of winter, these research-backed tools can make a difference.
1. Protect your sleep.
Constant insomnia can increase the risk of anxiety and depression — and of course, they can be symptoms of them too. But often the winter brings with it even more sleep disturbances than usual – be it due to daylight savings time, travel or holiday plans. But if you can try to protect your sleep in every way you can, get a more regular bedtime by trying to put your gadgets away a little earlier, use blackout drapes if the earlier first morning sun makes you wake up earlier, or give Extra time to get your bedroom as comfortable as possible in terms of temperature and noise can improve your mood significantly.
2. Use artificial light as a supplement.
There are many different types of lighting options to try and better simulate the fading daylight outside. From daylight bulbs that you can fit into regular lamps to alarm clocks that simulate dawn, many are inexpensive and plentiful. There are also lightboxes that serve more as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder and should be considered if you’re really feeling a seasonal mood swing. It’s wise to check with a doctor or psychologist first to make sure you’re buying one from a reputable source and that there aren’t any particular risk factors for you to be aware of.
3. Maximize your natural light.
In winter, it’s important to take advantage of the sunlight whenever you can – even five minutes of it can make a noticeable difference. This includes going outside for lunch when possible, taking more walks, and sitting near windows at work. Some people find it helpful to make simple adjustments to their schedule to maximize their sun—like going to bed a little earlier so they can get up a little earlier to enjoy it.
4. Prioritize social connections.
Positive relationships with others are one of the greatest boosts to our physical and mental health. Increased darkness often leads to increased subjective feelings of isolation and a literal increase in isolation: people walk their dogs more quickly, spend less time outside, and gather much less in public spaces when it’s cold outside. You can counteract this by being more proactive in scheduling social time with people whose presence brings metaphorical light — the connection is really great for your health.
5. Search for sensual experiences.
These are so important and can be so calming and also stimulating depending on what you need. Our eyes are hungry for light, but we can try to make the other senses happy. Think about bringing more music into your environment. Or more positive smells. It’s probably not just because of the holidays that people bake more when it’s cold and dark outside.
Think hot baths or stimulating your taste buds with interesting new foods; Look for visual beauty in the form of art or immersive film experiences. It really makes a difference, expanding your world to feel less closed off and dark.
6. Cultivate yours hygge
You’ve probably heard of this concept of “hygge,” or at least seen marketing trends trying to co-opt it so someone can make more money off throw pillows — but it’s a Scandinavian mindset of cosiness that’s spilled over to the North American scene before a few years. It’s all about texture, warmth and light. Imagine reading a book by the fire in fluffy socks while bread bakes in the oven.
Hygge evokes a sense of well-being, comfort and security. My clients, who struggle with seasonal mood swings, often embrace this idea and find genuine joy in it. Winter isn’t summer — even if you live in a place that’s warm year-round — so hygge means leaning into the coziness of winter, despite what it is.
Movement — or any body movement — can feel especially difficult when it’s dark and cold and we’re eating lots of holiday treats. But the science is very clear – body exercise can really help counteract seasonal blues. It increases our energy levels and helps release endorphins that improve our mood. Controlled studies have really placed it as an antidepressant with pretty impressive potency.
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But of course, winter, when we could use the most physical exercise, is the hardest time to get into a groove. So if you already have a way of moving your body that you enjoy, make sure you really prioritize it. And when you’re stuck, start small. How about dancing to a song in the privacy of your room to get your heart rate up and get a cardio boost? How about stretching for five minutes to reduce muscle tension? How about taking the stairs to your office instead of the elevator a few times a week?
8. Stay close to nature.
We know how good nature is for us, and part of what happens with seasonal symptoms is that we are less exposed to nature, which in turn contributes to our negative mood. More neon lights, less ventilation, less open space, and less greenery can all make us more anxious and less calm. So letting in plant life in addition to the daylight we talked about earlier can be very beneficial.
Did you know that modern research shows that houseplants can actually improve mood? See if you can bring some nature indoors. And if you can go for a winter hike, or run and jump into some leaves, or wrap up and go for a walk, all the better.
9. Check your vitamin levels.
You should always consult your doctor before changing anything related to your vitamin intake or taking any supplements, but there are chances that various vitamin or nutrient deficiencies can make the winter blues worse. This is especially true for the potential role of vitamin D — which decreases in our bodies when we don’t get as much sunlight, and is also linked to an increased risk of depression — although research is mixed. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a full medical exam, or if you haven’t checked your vitamin and mineral levels, it might be worth doing.
10. Schedule a break.
Experiences tend to be more rewarding as gifts than items, and that’s probably due to the added expectation of having the experience and the reward of remembering it afterwards – whereas with items we can quickly become desensitized. Looking forward to a journey is a gift in itself. And even if you don’t have the budget or ability to take enough time off from work to go on vacation somewhere, planning a special getaway or experience can go a long way in helping to beat the winter blues.
11. Introduce novelty.
Winter doldrums seem to be not just a mood dip, but sometimes a deeper, existential boredom, especially after the December hustle has passed. January and February can feel very monotonous when the anticipation for the new year and the holidays has died down. So look for novelties. It helps build new pathways in your brain and makes you wake up a little — which can improve your outlook and energy.