As we dive deeper into the winter months with lots of snow and rain (especially if you live in Vancouver), it is natural to start feeling a little bit down, fatigued and sad. You might feel a reduction in your overall energy and mood, and this is understandable because experiencing the colder months come with a lot of other uncomfortable add ons- like staying home more and not being able to hang out as much with friends, being cold and having to deal with the messy rain and snow, and not having the sunlight that automatically helps to boost mood. 

Rather than getting into a depressive state, here are some things that you can do to beat the winter blues, and get into a healthier state of mind. 

1. Get more light

Start by spending more time outdoors to make the most of what sunlight there is. Dr. Clare Morrison, medical advisor at MedExpress suggests getting up early to take in the morning sunshine. “If necessary, go to bed earlier to help combat fatigue and daytime sleepiness,” she said.

However, because it can be dark in the early morning, she said to consider using a light box. “This is a bright lamp which can be used for 30 minutes a day or more, to expose the eyes to extra light,” said Morrison. Patricia Thornton, PhD, a licensed psychologist in New York City agrees, stating that there are a variety of light therapy boxes. “There are even some that gradually increase in intensity as you wake up, so they simulate the sun rising even if it’s pitch black outside,” she said.

2. Exercise every day

Morrison suggests exercising daily for at least 30 minutes. “Once the hot summer weather has subsided, fall is a great time for enjoying the outdoors, so make the most of it by taking long walks or cycle rides. Alternatively, start a new sport or join the gym,” she said.

Thornton agreed, noting that she advocates exercise with all her clients.“Exercise is key across the board for mental health wellness. Every study shows improved mood after exercise,” Thornton said.

3. Change your diet

Fall and Winter is an excellent time to think about what you eat, said Morrison. Thornton agreed, saying the Fall/Winter seasons are a great time to make your favorite seasonal soups and warm meals you didn’t get to eat over the summer.

4. Start something new

Because fall and winter is a time of fresh starts, a new term, and a new season, Morrison says to think of it as a time to de-clutter, tidy the house, and reorganize. She added to consider a new image, hobby, or evening class you’ve been hoping to take.

5. Reframe your outlook

Rather than associating winter with negative experiences, Thornton said to try to look at it differently by reframing. “Humans are very focused on loss. In this case, the loss of sunlight and being outside, so try to think about what you can do about being inside,” she said. “Rather than thinking, ‘It’s cold and I’ll be stuck inside,’ try to think of being inside as, say, cozy,” she said.

One way to do this is to change the environment in your home with a comfortable, warm blanket, or accent pillows that are fall colors. “Now, you are taking what feels like a loss and are thinking about it in a different way,” said Thornton. 

With fewer daylight hours humans naturally have less activity and spend more time indoors. We could also look at this time as an opportunity to go inwards within ourselves too: self-reflection enables us to uncover behavioral patterns that may also be affecting our overall health.

These are just a few of many ways to shift your mindset and improve your overall mood and well being, though it doesn’t replace personalized medical advice. If you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression consult with a therapist or doctor for support that is specific to you.