Fighting the Winter Blues in 2023
The full brunt of winter is upon us as we begin 2023. The short days and cold weather, a New England staple, come with a cost for many: lowered mood, lower energy, disrupted sleep. You may have even noticed this effect yourself, a tangible physical feeling of tiredness around this time of year, and dismissed it. These feelings can become intense enough to seriously disrupt people’s lives, a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called the “winter blues.” Today, we wanted to share some thoughts on how to help fight against the winter blues.
1. Daylight, Diet and Exercise
Try to find ways to keep active throughout the day. An hour of walking, 30 minutes of light aerobic exercise, or a short bodyweight exercise can help with the fatigue of being indoors. We also recommend, particularly during sunny days, to put on the winter coat and try to get at least a short amount of sunlight outside once a day. Consider the Boston Parks Winter Fitness classes!
2. Indoor Supports
Warmth and light are positively associated with reduced stress and depression. For heat, we recommend blankets, hot drinks, hot food, and an attempt to keep your house temperature at least 65 degrees if possible. For days with the sun just won’t come out or it is too cold to comfortably leave, many turn to sun lights, sometimes called “light therapy,” to try to recreate the effect of daylight. Several options are reviewed here. Some also find it helpful as an early year goal to learn a new hobby or start a new indoor project, be it as small as keeping a journal for five minutes a day, or as involved as learning a new skill set. Having a tangible, personal project to look forward to can help with feelings of restlessness.
3. Social Interaction and Community Events
A lingering effect from the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic is momentum from that period of isolation. We encourage people strongly to set dates to either physically or over screen sharing technology to spending time with friends and family outside of your house. Boston is also home to a huge number of free and paid community events for those looking for ways to reconnect!
4. Professional supports
Sometimes, as stated above, the feelings become so intense that they can disrupt your life and become outright painful. This is where professional support can come in. Therapy methods like cognitive behavioral counseling have been shown to have positive effects on seasonal affective disorder. The Boston Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be an excellent resource for short term counseling, or referral to a long term CBT therapist. Be sure to explore the EAP resource list for more community and online support as well. Finally, you may benefit from checking in with your primary care provider as well. Sometimes medical conditions contribute heavily to feelings of depression.
This article by Harvard Medical School provides a more detailed overview of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
From all of us at the EAP, here’s to a safe and healthy 2023.