7 Natural Ways to Beat the Fall/Winter Blues

Monday Oct 20 | BY |
| Comments (1)

Fall Blues

The change of seasons can make us feel blue. Try these 10 tips to put a smile back on your face.

It’s the fall season. How do you feel?

Maybe you love the change of colors on the leaves, the cooler weather, and the crisp feel of the air. Maybe fall is your favorite time of year.

But then again, maybe you feel it starting to come on—that touch of melancholy, the nostalgia for the warm, long days of summer, and the dread of the long, cold, harsh winter months.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that seasonal depression, or “seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” often starts in the fall (and then gets worse in the winter). Particularly if you live in the northern latitudes where the sun seems to take a permanent vacation in winter, you may already be feeling a little blue in anticipation of the oncoming gloominess.

About a half million people in the U.S. suffer from SAD, while 10 to 20 percent more may suffer from a milder form of the fall/winter blues. Though things like light therapy, exercise, and eating a balanced diet can all help, we thought you might be able to use a few other recommendations on how you can keep up your energy and mood as the year winds to a close.

Change of Season Affects All Of Us

First of all, it’s important to recognize that when the seasons change, we definitely feel the effects. Even the most positive of us can’t help but notice that as the daylight wanes and evening comes earlier and earlier, we may feel a little heavier, crave different foods, and wish we could sleep just a little longer in the morning.

A 2013 analysis, for example, found that eating disorders, schizophrenia, ADHD, and bi-polar disorders all decreased in summer compared to winter. The researchers stated that all mental illnesses may have stronger links to the seasons than previously believed. A 2004 study even found that cholesterol levels rise in the winter and fall in the summer!

So if you’re feeling something a little different than you did this summer, realize it’s completely normal—and then take care of yourself by trying some of the following coping tips.

7 Ways to Stay Energized and Happy

The following steps may require a few changes in your schedule, but if they help you feel better, they’re worth it!

  1. Get outside at lunch: In the fall and winter, it’s common to go to work before dawn and come out after sunset. That lack of exposure to daylight is one of the main reasons why many people start to feel blue, depressed, and fatigued. So change your schedule so you can get out at lunchtime. Take a walk, having a walking meeting, run your errands, or do your exercise routine during your lunch hour.
  2. Become a morning person: The days are shorter in fall and winter, so it’s important to get all the sun exposure you can. That may mean getting up earlier in the morning. Better yet—get up and get out. Even just 10-15 minutes outside between the hours of six o’clock and 10 o’clock in the morning can help reset your internal clock and get you feeling great for the day. To maintain the routine, be sure to get to bed at the same time most every night. If you need more help to get up, try one of those “dawn simulator” clocks that gradually flood your room with light.
  3. Get enough vitamin D: With less sun exposure, you may experience dwindling levels of vitamin D. Consider supplements or consume more food sources of the vitamin, including fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
  4. Try herbs: There are a number of herbal supplements that can help improve mood. Try ylang-ylang, rose, St. John’s wort, milk thistle, and SAMe.
  5. Engage in fall activities: Have you ever gone apple picking? Have you carved pumpkins? Raked leaves with the kids? Visited a corn maze? Played touch football with your family and friends? The more you engage in the activities of the season, the better you’ll feel.
  6. Eat to feel good: Did you know certain foods can help maintain a good mood? Many contain nutrients that the brain needs to function optimally and to maintain good mood neurotransmitters. Researchers also link certain foods—like Brazil nuts—to preventing the blues. Add more omega-3-rich items to the menu (like sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed); dark chocolate; chilis and other peppers; magnesium-rich items like sunflower seeds and fish; tryptophan-rich lean meats (like turkey and chicken) and pumpkin; probiotic-rich yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha; and bananas.
  7. Get together with friends: It’s harder to motivate ourselves to get out when it’s cold and miserable outside. But social support is one of the main ways we can ward off depression. Set a goal of getting out with friends at least once a week. To make it easier, meet for breakfast or lunch, when the sun is still out. Invite your pals along for your noon walk or morning run.
  8. Consider acupuncture: Studies have shown that acupuncture can work just as well as counseling for depression. A 2013 study, for instance, found that patients with moderate or severe depression who received 12 weekly acupuncture sessions experienced greater improvements over three months than those who received no treatment, and improvements similar to patients who received counseling.
  9. Book a holiday: You may think that because summer is over, so too are the fun holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, according to research, just planning and looking forward to a holiday can help significantly brighten your mood. A 2010 study, for example, found that anticipating a holiday did more for participants’ mood than even having gone on vacation. Even just a weekend away—particularly to a warmer spot—can do wonders for your mood during the fall and winter months.
  10. Try yoga: Several studies have linked regular yoga practice to improved mood. In 2010, for example, researchers found that yoga may be better than other forms of exercise when it comes to its effect on mood and anxiety. In fact, participants who practiced yoga actually had increased levels of gamma-aminobutryic (GABA) in their brains than those who didn’t. (Low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety.) In the study, participants practiced yoga three times a week for one hour. If you haven’t tried yoga yet, fall may be the perfect time.

Do you have fall mood-boosting tips? Please share them with our readers.

* * *

Rachel Zimmerman, “Study: Seasons May Affect Mental Health More than Previously Thought,” CommonHealth, April 9, 2013, http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/04/seasons-mental-illness.

“Study: Cholesterol levels change with seasons,” NBC News, April 26, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4837632/ns/health-heart_health/t/study-cholesterol-levels-change-seasons/#.VCHHxWTF94U.

Andrew M. Seaman, “Acupuncture as good as counseling for depression: study,” Reuters, September 24, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/24/us-acupuncture-depression-idUSBRE98N17420130924.

Jeroen Nawijn, et al., “Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday,” Applied Research in Quality of Life, March 2010; 5(1):35-47, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11482-009-9091-9.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Great tips, Colleen. I practice most of them although getting together with friends is more challenging than it used to be because of hearing loss. You say you have 7 tips, but post 10, so we get 3 bonus tips. Maybe we can only manage 7 at a time. 😉

    Comments are closed for this post.