Got the Winter Blues? 10 Great Ways to Feel Better

winter blues

From an emotional perspective the months of February and March are the worst months of the year for me. I definitely suffer from SAD - seasonal affective disorder, also well known as the winter blues. What I have learned is that SAD is diagnosed more often in women than it is in men.

In this part of Canada winter typically begins with a cold blast sometime in October and the last bits of snow and ice usually do not melt until sometime in May. While we do experience many sunny days during that time, the sun is too far away to make a difference.

Living far from the equator: Seasonal affective disorder appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator.” Cities in the far north actually have a high suicide rate.

Plus, for the sun to really help you, you need to expose bare skin to sunlight (without sunscreen) for at least 20 minutes a day. When temperatures average somewhere between 5 degrees Celsius (on a good day) and minus 20 degrees Celsius, for 8 months straight, you do not really want to expose your arms or legs to the sun for very long.

The months between October and January really do not bother me. But I always notice that come February I start to experience the following symptoms in varying degrees:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

Are you currently experiencing any of those symptoms?

What I’ve discovered through research is that there are ways to cope with the winter blues and deal with the symptoms brought on by seasonal affective disorder or SAD. If you also find that you suffer from the winter blues here are some different things that I have tried over the past 12 years to help myself get through these winter months without ruining my life completely. :-)

10 Great Ways To Increase Your Energy And Beat The Winter Blues

Take Plenty of Vitamin D3

“It’s amazing how quickly adequate levels of vitamin D can be restored by sunlight. Just 6 days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure.” – Source: WebMD – Vitamin D

People living in Canada and the northern half of the US, are especially at risk when it comes to suffering from Vitamin D3 deficiency because we live so far away from the equator. Taking mega doses of vitamin D3 on a daily basis helps our bodies combat a number of health issues.

When we talk about the winter blues, the benefit received from taking vitamin D3 is that it helps us deal with issues of depression, mood swings, and so on.

A typical average daily dose of D3 for an adult is 2,000 to 5,000 IU per day. I typically take 4 to 5,000 IU with my dinner.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Eat more complex carbohydrates and protein. I’ve noticed over the years that protein instantly boosts my mood. If I just have toast for breakfast I begin feeling irritable a few hours later. If I have eggs with my breakfast I simply feel better all day long.

I also try to avoid processed foods and ease up on anything with sugar. As well, and you probably do this, I try my best to drink copious amounts of water. I have friends and family members that only drink a glass a day. I'm not sure why.


Keeping yourself fit and working out regularly can always keep the blues away. Exercising boosts your energy level and helps with your metabolism too. We have an Elliptical machine in our home office and my husband and I challenge each other to do more and more everyday.

Get Enough Sleep

Your body needs to rejuvenate and repair itself especially during these cold months. Getting enough sleep gives you the energy you need for the day. Be careful not to oversleep though because it can make you feel more tired. We try to keep a consistent sleeping schedule by going to bed between 9:30 and 11 PM. Our alarm goes off at 8 AM (one of our joys of working from home).

Comedies and Music

Watch your favorite funny sitcoms or make some popcorn and enjoy a funny movie.

The Comedy channel is great to watch this time of year as well, especially Jeff Dunham who is an American ventriloquist and stand-up comedian.

jeff dunham

The other thing that works well is to listen to Bob Marley while imagining myself playing on a beach in the Caribbean.

Relax and Treat Yourself

Indulge in something you enjoy during the winter months.

Have a special spa day all to yourself complete with a massage and facial. 

Invite a few people over for a dinner party.

Don’t work too much or overstress yourself with things that need to be done.

Take time to just do nothing and relax for a few minutes each day.

Meditate. Learn yoga. Calming your mind and your spirit can definitely change your mood.

Do A Winter Activity Or Go On A Holiday

It’s winter after all and there are activities that you can only do during winter.

Try out something new. Go skiing, snowboarding or ice skating.  About 10 years ago I took skiing lessons and then for the next few winters I did a few skiing trips with friends. Even though I wasn't very good at skiing it was fun to get away to the mountains.

Doing fun winter activities can help elevate your mood during the winter months.

If you really can’t stand the cold weather, why not go somewhere warmer? Or you don’t even need to go somewhere warmer. Go someplace new or different.

Planning a fun weekend can definitely brighten up your mood.

Set Personal Goals

Challenge yourself and set small goals during the winter season. Think about what you can cross off your bucket list.

Having that personal challenge and working towards something may help you get your mind off the weather. It’s always a good thing to set your mind to something productive and healthy.

Ask For Help

If nothing seems to combat your winter blues, consider getting help from a specialist.

Seasonal affective disorder is a real condition and nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed about. Talking to a counsellor or a specialist can be more helpful than you realize.

Try Light Therapy

Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.

Light therapy is one of the first line treatments for seasonal affective disorder. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects.

Letting more light into your days can help chase those winter blues away.

Do you currently feel like you have the winter blues? Do you, or someone you know, suffer from seasonal affective disorder? How are you dealing with it?



    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

      Laurie @thefrugalfarmer 02/25/2013 5:47 a.m. #

      Sicorra, great post! I too suffer from SAD on occasion and it's not fun. All of your tips are ones that I use and that work well for me. We are so blessed that our new hobby farm has a huge south-facing bay window, and I'm telling you it is my sanctuary during the sometimes hard-to-bear months of Feb and March. Simply sitting near it for 20 minutes or so can change my mood entirely.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 9:56 a.m. #

        Yes, it is not a constant thing. Some days I don't even notice it and then some days I just feel blah...

        You are very fortunate to have the bright area to sit in. Even if you can't feel the sun on your skin, just the beauty of it all can cheer you up.

    • John S @ Frugal Rules

      John S @ Frugal Rules 02/25/2013 8:17 a.m. #

      Thanks for sharing this Sicorra! I do not suffer from SAD, though I definitely understand it and think that staying active is a big part of it. I lived in Alaska for four months after college and knew that it was a big issue there, for many of the same reasons you shared.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 9:53 a.m. #

        Wow... that is so cool that you lived in Alaska! I have always wanted to go up there. The pictures look so beautiful.

    • Mary Hone

      Mary Hone 02/25/2013 10:13 a.m. #

      I am not a big fan of cold, or winter. So when we started living and travelling full time in our RV, it gave us the freedom to follow the sunshine. We just spent 8 weeks in AZ, but then had to come back to Utah for business reasons. It's cold. But, I am just getting ready to put my big girl panties on, and take the dogs hiking.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 10:28 a.m. #

        That is so cool that you are traveling in your RV full time. My husband and I have discussed that option numerous times, and to be able to follow the sun is one of the greatest advantages. Hopefully you do not have to stay in Utah for very long. Enjoy your hike today :-)

    • Mackenzie

      Mackenzie 02/25/2013 11:04 a.m. #

      These are great tips, no matter where you live! Sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet are important to feel your best. I completely agree about the protein; if I don't get enough in the morning either, I get grumpy pretty fast :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 11:22 a.m. #

        Thanks Mackenzie!

        Good to hear that protein helps you as well. It took me a long time to make the connection between eating protein and feeling better. It was one of those Ah Ha moments...

    • DC @  Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 02/25/2013 11:08 a.m. #

      February and March are difficult times here in Minnesota. Everyone is ready for Spring and Summer. One way I get over my winter blues is working on the house, knowing that if I do some extra work now I can spend more time outside when it warms up. Definitely something I would recommend to people. It's all about mindset ;)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 11:25 a.m. #

        In some cases it is about mindset. It depends on how bad a person's symptoms are. Getting some work done around the house is important. Last year in March we steam cleaned all of our carpets and painted and turned our basement into our new office. That was fun!

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 02/25/2013 11:14 a.m. #

      Great post. Living in California I get spoiled but the tips you outlined are helpful from anyone feeling a bit blue, weather related or not. It's amazing how much sunlight can affect our mood. I'll send some to your way in hopes of an early Spring! :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 11:27 a.m. #

        Thanks Shannon!

        For sure a person can feel blue no matter where they live, here it is just more common. I think knowing that it is going to last for several more months doesn't really help. We really do not get a Spring season here, but I wish we did, because I love Spring weather - not too hot, not too cold.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 02/25/2013 2:11 p.m. #

      Although I live in southern California and have over 300 sunny days, I find the weather does affect my mood. If I have rainy gloomy weather for a while, I can be down for a while too. Thankfully, it does not last long because the weather changes frequently here.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 5:15 p.m. #

        It is interesting how an overcast and stormy day can affect us. In the winter if I need to drive somewhere I actually prefer a cloudy day because in the winter the sun sits on the horizon here making it a bit difficult to see. But when I am home or out for a walk of course a sunny day is better.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 02/25/2013 3:53 p.m. #

      Interesting post Sicorra and great data you provided for your readers. I heard of the winter blues but I didn't think it could get this bad.

      The good thing about these tips you recommended is it can be done throughout the year for anyone battling depression.

      I love listening to Bob Marely and another voice that's soothing is Barbara Streisand, I love her!

      I also like candles or just having my favorite fragrances in the air, helps relax me too :) Thanks for putting this together!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 5:18 p.m. #

        Candles are always beautiful to have on the go. Hey, Barbara S. sang at the Oscars last night. Did you see it?

        It took me a number of years to understand why I always felt like crap in February.

    • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

      Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank 02/25/2013 6:49 p.m. #

      There is no risk of me not getting enough sun living in Australia, it is hot pretty much all year round and is sunny about 6.5 days out of 7.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2013 7:11 p.m. #

        Yeah, I was thinking about you as I wrote this. You live in a very nice part of the world :-)

    • AverageJoe

      AverageJoe 02/25/2013 7:29 p.m. #

      I used to suffer from this BADLY when we lived in Michigan. I would become so, so, so depressed in February that I learned to embrace it. Once we moved to Texas I no longer have that problem. The sun shines so much here that I've maintained a similar outlook all the way through winter the last four years.

      That said, I love your tips. I found taking a trip to someplace sunny for just a few days in January usually was enough to break up the depression.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/26/2013 11:16 a.m. #

        Yes, getting away to a sunny spot is extremely helpful. Some years I have been able to do that some not. One of my worst years was in 2000. I worked a ton of overtime from January to mid April and by May 1st I was a basket case and I couldn't figure out what it was until I did some research. Now each year I try to be pro-active.

    • Justin@TheFrugalPath

      Justin@TheFrugalPath 02/25/2013 8:21 p.m. #

      I think it's very important to go outside and get some fresh air. It can be easy to lock yourself in to stay warm, but I often find cabin fever setting in. Even shoveling the snow can help make the day better because it gets me out of the house.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/26/2013 11:17 a.m. #

        It is hard to force yourself to go outside when it is cold, but you are right, it is important. I just came in from shoveling as a matter of fact and I feel better too.

    • sally brown

      sally brown 02/26/2013 9:31 a.m. #

      Hi Sicorra,
      I wrote a similar post 2011. You have done a good job of providing great info on this. I suffer from this as well, but work at keeping above it. I had my Vit D checked that year and it was way below normal. I was on mega doses for a while and now take it daily. Good article! Sally

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/26/2013 11:20 a.m. #

        Thanks very much Sally! Good to hear that you have discovered what you need to do to deal with it well. Vitamin D is so important. It amazes me that for years Doctors (at least here in Canada) wouldn't test for it and then suddenly a few years ago they were told that it had to be part of a person's annual blood work. I think they were happier to prescribe anti-depressants instead.

    • pauline

      pauline 02/26/2013 3:41 p.m. #

      moving to a sunny country :) ok, that is a bit extreme. When I was in places with long winters, I tried to spend as much time outside as possible. Nothing more depressing than going to work in the dark and coming home at night. I tried to take a lunch break to walk, and enjoy day light. Hot chocolate also made the day better!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/26/2013 3:58 p.m. #

        I use to drink a lot of hot chocolate :-)

        Leading up to and just after Dec 21st the days get really short here. The sun doesn't rise until after 8:30 in the morning and then it is dark again by 4 PM. As you said, go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Not so nice.

    • KK @ Student Debt Survivor

      KK @ Student Debt Survivor 02/28/2013 6:42 a.m. #

      I grew up in Maine so I know all about long terrible winters. What was even more depressing is a lot of times things would be canceled due to the snow, so you didn't even have anywhere to go or anything to do. Here in NYC we don't get as much snow and businesses rarely close so at least there are still things to do when the weather is bad and the days are cold and dark.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/28/2013 10:24 a.m. #

        I've been paying more attention to the weather in NY over the past few years and noticed that the winters are not as harsh as in some areas. Quite often when they show outdoor photos of NY on the news in the winter the streets are clear and dry. I was surprised considering they are in the northern part of the US.

    • Brian @ Luke1428

      Brian @ Luke1428 02/28/2013 7:14 p.m. #

      This is a great list Sicorra! I live in Georgia so winters here are pretty mild. I do run in the mornings before work though and like the feeling I get when my body and mind can overcome the cold morning temperatures.

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