Winter—so beautiful with its snows and sunsets, and so cozy with its hot cocoa, fuzzy blankets, and warm fires. Yet every year for as long as I can remember, winter has weighed heavy on me. As a child, I didn’t understand why I felt blue and sad for months after each Christmas. Now I know why.
I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a form of depression that afflicts around 10 million Americans every year, especially in the winter months. The long, dark nights combined with shorter light periods often trigger depression-like symptoms.
I have endured several seasons of depression in the past, and mental illness runs on both sides of my family. I am genetically predisposed to have this problem, year after year. But I have found ways to fight off these heavy winter blues that strike each November and last through March.
Recently I wrote about the tried-and-true ways I’ve learned to handle SAD, without the use of any medication. My faith in God has served as an anchor in those dark seasons, and I’ve learned some practical coping methods too. Today, I’ll share my top eight tips for fighting off winter blues.
First, an important note for you: If you have been experiencing depression symptoms every day for two weeks, please see a doctor right away. These tips are meant to help those of us with mild to moderate cases of winter blues and SAD, not clinical depression. It’s important that you receive the professional help you need (like I did in the past).
Here are my top 8 tips for beating winter blues:
1. Meditate on God’s Word. Regular meditation provides spiritual, mental, physical, personal, and relational benefits. It has helped me focus my mind on positive truths when I feel down. Learn the easy seven-step method I use for Christian meditation here.
2. Expose yourself to natural sunlight. An invisible switch inside me flips to “off” if clouds block the sun too long. Any day the sun appears, I bundle up and take a quick walk outdoors. The sunlight always energizes me and prompts me to praise God for His gift of light.
3. Use other light sources to boost your mood. Experts recommend light therapy to treat SAD. You can invest in a light box, or you can keep your Christmas tree up a bit longer, like I do. It cheers me on those dark winter nights and inspires me to thank Jesus for being the Light of the World.
4. Eat foods that beat the blues. I have tested several different foods and found good results from eating whole grains, chocolate, and bone broth. These foods help your body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and produces good feelings.
5. Exercise regularly. Even though I’m not a natural athlete, I exercise during the winter to increase endorphins, which help me shed my winter blues. I combine exercise with reading Christian books, which builds my faith.
6. Use natural methods to get better sleep. When you’re depressed, you often get either too much sleep or not enough sleep. I use several different methods to get better sleep, including essential oils that make a big difference.
7. Enjoy face-to-face time with friends. It’s so tempting to hole up at home with the winter blues. But I’ve learned that I cope with winter blues better when I reach out to others. I meet weekly with my Bible Study friends and it's a lifeline in the winter.
8. Change your routine for a fresh perspective. Winter is a good time to take a day trip, get a massage, reconnect with an old friend, or volunteer. Even a small change of pace can inspire you and give you hope.
These are my favorite ways to beat winter blues, based on my recent blog series, 4 Ways to Fight Off Winter Blues. If you have any other creative ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Sarah Geringer is a full-time freelance writer and graphic designer. She writes about Finding Peace in God’s Word and is the author of three books. She also leads an online Bible study group based on the One Year Bible. She loves to read, paint, garden, bake, and play the flute. Sarah lives in Missouri with her husband and three children, right in the heart of prime viewing for the Great Eclipses of 2017 and 2024. Follow Sarah on social media: