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Winter wellness: How to boost your mood in colder months

Here are expert-recommended strategies to combat the winter blues

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Rex, a 2-year-old border collie/chihuahua mix, plays in Reservoir Park in Salt Lake City on Dec. 14, 2022.

Rex, a 2-year-old border collie/chihuahua mix, plays in Reservoir Park in Salt Lake City on Dec. 14, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

As fall arrives, days are getting shorter and colder. For many people, that means the winter blues will be arriving soon, but experts say there are ways to shrug off those downcast feelings.

“Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time,” Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institute of Health, said.

Symptoms of seasonal depression can include “increased sleep and daytime drowsiness, loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed, social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection, irritability and anxiety, feelings of guilt and hopelessness and fatigue, or low energy level,” per Johns Hopkins Medicine.

If colder weather gets you down, here are a few strategies to use to combat seasonal sadness:

Mindful meditation

Being present can help you appreciate the small moments. Practicing meditation, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, can help center your mind and provide clarity.

Regular meditation has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals who struggle with it by changing the way the brain responds to stressful feelings, according to Harvard Health.

“One way to fall into the rhythm of winter rather than fight it is to look inward. This may help you reap many rewards, such as peace, tranquility, insight and creativity, as well as feelings of kindness and generosity to your fellow human beings,” according to Spritual+Health.

Keep a journal

Writing down things you’re grateful for can shift your perspective from what’s lacking or negative to what’s abundant in your life. Studies have shown that, over time, this can significantly boost your mood.

Everyday Health said journaling “works by helping you prioritize life’s problems and identifying your depression triggers, as well as what helps lift your mood.”

Keep in touch

Talk to friends or family when you’re feeling blue. Simply sharing your feelings or hearing someone else’s voice can make a difference.

“Close relationships are vital in reducing isolation and helping you manage” seasonal depression, per Help Guide. “Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. It may feel more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will boost your mood.”

When it’s cold outside, and you’re not in the mood to leave your warm bed, try to fight the urge to stay in. You’ll get more satisfaction from going out with friends than watching the latest Hallmark Christmas rom-com.

Participate in activities you love

Whether it’s reading, painting, playing music or any other hobby, engaging in activities you love can be a source of joy and distraction

“It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on,” Sue Pavlovich of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association told Scotland’s National Health Information Services.

Pavlovich emphasized that what works for one person may not work for another in combatting the winter blues, so experimenting with different activities is important.


Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Even a short walk can make a difference.

“There’s convincing evidence that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week is effective against depression and anecdotal evidence that lighter exercise will have a beneficial effect, too,” Dr. Andrew McCulloch, former chief executive officer of the Mental Health Foundation, told the National Health Information Services.

Everyday Health shared fun exercises to do in colder weather:

  • Skiing.
  • Ice skating.
  • Brisk walking.
  • Sledding.
  • Snowshoeing.

Seek natural light

Being outside under the sun and in nature has a way of grounding us and providing a sense of peace.

“For both seasonal and nonseasonal depression, the effectiveness of light therapy is approximately the same as antidepressant medications or popular forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy,” Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told Harvard Health.

It may not be the same as lying out by the pool catching UV rays, but any natural light is better for your health than hibernating all winter.

Seek additional help

Sometimes, the best course of action is to speak to a therapist or counselor. They can provide strategies tailored to your personal circumstances.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, seasonal depression affects women more than men. “Without treatment, depression can last weeks, months or years, but most people respond well to medication, therapy or a combination of the two.”

“Most people with clinical depression who seek treatment see improvement, usually within weeks,” Johns Hopkins Medicine reported.