For many people depressed moods and lower energy blow in along with snowstorms and cold fronts during this time of year. While the cause is still not entirely clear, the winter blues, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) seems to be related to a lack of bright light. Along with depressed mood, those suffering from the winter blues may also notice irritability, fatigue, increased sleep, loss of interest in sex, loss of interest in socializing, decreased or increased appetite and overeating. Often these symptoms will subside during the spring and summer months and increase during the winter months.

Before the snow has hit the ground, you’ve probably already begun counting down the weeks until spring. Well like it or not, old man winter is just around the corner, so here are some tips to get you through and beat those winter blues:

  1. Get at least 1 hour of outdoor sun exposure daily. Sit next to a window that has lots of light if you can’t get outside. You can also purchase an indoor light that is specific for SAD and keep it next to your desk at work or at home. Research has shown that light therapy can be as effective as anti-depressants, but with less side effects. Look for a fluorescent, full spectrum light source without ultraviolet wavelengths.
  2. Stay active! Getting at least 40 minutes of physical activity 3 or more times a week has been shown to help manage depressed mood. Try and embrace what winter has to offer. After all, it’s here no matter what so you might as well bundle up, get out there and enjoy it! Heck, you’d be surprised how many calories you can burn building a snowman. Walking, hiking, snow shoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, and skating are great activities to help stay in shape, and have fun with the friends and family. Physical activity increases mood boosting chemicals which hang around long after exercise.
  3. Feed your brain. Eat quality protein with every meal and a variety of vegetables, fruit, healthy grains, nuts and seeds. This will help to ensure you are getting the necessary nutrients to produce those happy neurotransmitters. Try to include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring 1-2 times/week to get those omega-3’s which are not only great for your brain and mood but also benefit the joints, heart, and skin.
  4. Reduce or eliminate Alcohol acts as a depressant so if your mood is already low it’s best to stay away. While most people can handle a moderate amount of alcohol, binge drinking, leaves you feeling more down, tired and depleted, especially the morning after.
  5. Stay Social. When we are feeling blue our automatic reaction is to withdraw from those around us. Though it may be a natural response, research has shown that those who lack social support are more at risk for depression. On the other hand, high level social support buffers or protects against mental and physical illness, and improves our resiliency to stress. Try to connect with loved ones as regularly as possible. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, it will also give you something to look forward to.

As the temperature and your mood begin to fall, try these tips to help lighten up!

If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at!


Virk G, Reeves G, Rosenthal NE, Sher L, Postolache TT. 2009. Short exposure to light treatment improves depression scores in patients with seasonal affective disorder: A brief report. Int J Disabil Hum Dev. 8(3):283-286.

Miller AL. Epidemiology, etiology, and natural treatment of seasonal affective disorder. 2005. Altern Med Rev. 10(1):5-13.

Rethorst C., Wipfli, B., and Landers, D. 2009. The Antidepressive Effects of Exercise. A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Sports Medicine. 39(6):491–511

Ozbay F, Johnson D, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. 2007. Social Support and Resilience to Stress. From Neurobiology to Clinical Practice. Psychiatry. 4(5): 35–40



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