Winter Blues: 10 Proven Seasonal Depression Hacks

Seasonal depression can be hard. Here's how to make it so much easier to deal with.


I've got a friend who is currently caring for her mother who is battling dementia. Although, most times, her mom is in a pretty good mood, if there are two times when she can basically predict that she's not gonna be the happiest person, it's when it rains and when time "falls back" (you know, when time changes in the autumn season). We've figured that a big part of that is because it's darker outside during those moments and that triggers a certain level of seasonal depression (which is also known as seasonal affective disorder).

While scientists are actually still trying to figure out what causes seasonal depression to happen in some individuals and not others, what they do know is 1) it is connected to a hormonal shift in the brain; 2) it transpires in women more than men; 3) it tends to begin during childhood or early adolescence; 4) while there is something called "summer depression", depression during the fall and winter months is far more common because there's less sunlight, which means less serotonin is produced, which means it can be more challenging to keep a positive mindset, and 5) if you've got less energy, you gain more weight, you can't seem to focus, you want to be alone a lot more and you'd prefer to sleep more than just about anything else. If you could nod your head up and down to all of this, there's a good chance that seasonal depression is exactly what you are struggling with.

While in extreme cases, sometimes your doctor will recommend that you take an antidepressant in order to get you through, milder forms of seasonal depression can be headed off by taking some proactive measures. Below, I've enclosed 10 proven hacks that can make this time of the year, so much more bearable, if seasonal depression is something that is an annual challenge in your life.

1. Find the Good About Fall and Winter


As someone who's favorite time of the year is autumn, this first tip is something that I can't personally relate to, although I do know some folks who very much so struggle with embracing fall and autumn seasons. Oftentimes, the weather is so much gloomier. If you're not big on holidays, you can almost feel like you're suffocating between Halloween and New Year's Day. Plus, if you're single when this time of year rolls around, between all of the Hallmark holiday flicks, holiday parties and family gatherings that consist of relatives who are all booed up, that can sometimes take its toll as well.

That's why, it's important to not go into fall and wintertime with a doomed mindset. Try and be intentional about looking for some of the good things that you like about both seasons. Maybe it's having (or taking) some time off. Maybe it's the holiday music and decorations. Maybe it's that some of your favorite shows are returning (shout-out to This Is Us). While it can be difficult at times, being intentional about taking a glass-half-full approach to November thru January (especially) can make seasonal depression less of a challenge than it usually is.

2. Bring More Color into Your Life


There is oftentimes a lot of inclement weather that comes with this time of the year; that means a lot of gloomy grey days. Something else that can make seasonal depression a lot easier to bear is if you add more color to your home and your attire. While it is true that bright colors are typically associated with spring and summer, those "rules" are arbitrary. Some yellow (which represents happiness and creativity) bedding or a big orange (which represents enthusiasm and encouragement) scarf or even applying a bright shade of lipstick, can be a simple way to bring feelings of joy and comfort to your personal space.

2. Buy a Dawn Simulator


Something that a lot of mental health experts recommend that those with seasonal depression invest in is a dawn simulator. Basically, it's a form of light therapy where the room the simulator is in is able to lighten up, gradually, over 30 minutes to two hours of time. If you get a dawn simulator alarm clock, it can ease you into a new day with more light than may be outdoors without it feeling invasive or annoying. It can definitely beat the intrusiveness of the overhead lights that you probably have in various rooms of your house. Anyway, if you want to treat yourself to a dawn simulator alarm clock, you can check out some of the best on the market here. Or, if you'd prefer to test out a dawn simulating app instead, you can check out a pretty good one here.

4. Get More Vitamin D into Your System


Something that is directly linked to seasonal depression is not getting enough Vitamin D into your system. That's why, if seasonal depression is an annual thing for you, it's important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get your Vitamin D levels checked.

Some things that can help to up your intake is getting more sunlight by walking or exercising outdoors, taking a Vitamin D supplement and/or being intentional about consuming foods that are high in this particular nutrient. Some of those include salmon, mushrooms, egg yolks, orange juice and oatmeal.

5. Schedule Your Screen Time


Wanna know something that is absolutely not good for a person with seasonal depression? Insomnia. While there may be times when you find yourself tossing and turning all night, always turning on your television or smartphone to distract you is going to ultimately end up doing more harm than good. For one thing, those types of light sources can disrupt the circadian rhythms of your brain which ends up altering the melatonin levels that you need in order to sleep soundly. While you might not wanna hear it, putting yourself on a screen time and sleep schedule are two of the best ways to combat seasonal depression. Make sure that you do, OK?

6. Snack on Walnuts, Seeds and Berries


Did you know that there are certain foods that you can eat that will help to get you through seasonal depression as well? Aside from the foods that I shared in the article, "In A Bad Mood? These Foods Will Lift Your Spirits!", if you want something to snack on—walnuts and seeds (like flaxseeds and chia seeds) are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to lower depression-related symptoms, while berries are loaded with antioxidants; ones that are able to heal bodily inflammation. Berries also contain fiber that can help to get toxins out of your system. While most berries are actually in season during the spring and summer months, imported blueberries are available year-round and cranberries are especially big this time of the year.

7. Apply Some Balsam Poplar Essential Oil


If you've spent, even a little bit of time on our site, you know that we're all about some essential oils, chile (check out "6 Different Places To Apply Essential Oils. And Why.", "7 Essential Oils All Naturalistas Need For Their Hair", "9 All-Natural Essentials That Need To Be In Your Skincare Routine", "10 Essential Oil Beauty Hacks I Bet You Didn't Know About" and "8 Natural Aphrodisiac Scents, Where They Go & How To Make Them Last"). Well, when it comes to an essential oil that specifically helps to alleviate seasonal depression-related symptoms, one that you should definitely have in your collection is balsam poplar essential oil.

From an external standpoint, this oil (which has a sweet and woodsy-like smell to it) is excellent at helping to heal wounds, bruises and scars, as well as eczema, thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Also, thanks to its analgesic and antispasmodic compounds, this is the kind of essential oil that help to soothe muscle soreness and strain.

Internally, many people who practice aromatherapy say that balsam poplar essential oil is awesome at encouraging emotional healing while promoting an inner sense of calm and tranquility. Definitely worth giving a shot when it comes to applying it to your pressure points, your clothing or on your bedding before turning in every evening.

8. Know Your Triggers


While seasonal depression is not something that I personally struggle with (two of my favorite spots are Seattle and London and it doesn't get much "gloomier" than there), it has been a real game-changer for me to learn what my triggers are and how to deactivate them. If you know that your aunt is gonna ask you, at least 10 times at Thanksgiving about when you're finally gonna get a man; if you know that, like clockwork, certain Christmas songs are gonna make you cry; if you know that, drinking too much alcohol is gonna turn you into an erratic mess—decide now that you are going to do whatever is necessary to not allow these things to get to you in the way that they traditionally do. Nipping triggers in the bud is a superpower. I'd be floored if it didn't do wonders when it comes to handling seasonal depression, on every level.

9. Be Intentional About Relaxing


Depression is weird in the sense that, while on one hand, you probably feel like you have absolutely no energy at all, on the other, you may be anxious a lot of the time. Something that can help both sides of this coin is learning how to chill out—you know, relax. Meditating. Reading a book. Curling up in your bed to watch a favorite movie for the billionth time. Soaking in the tub until…whenever. Sipping on some warm tea or hot chocolate. Getting off the grid, taking some deep breaths and just being in the stillness of the moment can calm your spirit down and also make you feel more at ease and at peace. Do it daily, please. It's essential.

10. Have a Strong Support System


There is someone I know who gets pretty low around this time. And while, the rest of the year, we find ourselves catching up on the phone maybe once a month, for the past five years or so, I've prepped myself to be on-call for them, right around November or so. Sometimes, they will ring me in the middle of the night, just to talk or sometimes or to ask me to sit on the phone and watch a movie or something with them. The holidays are a lonely time in their world and, because they are a friend, I am willing to do what I need to do to help get them through it.

Another reason why seasonal depression can be rough is because it can have you out here thinking that you are selfish for not feeling so hot during a time of year when folks are focused on the holidays and their own families. Yet always remember that the people who love you, they want to support you. That's a part of the reason why I wrote, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". Being a good friend isn't always easy, but when your friend is good to you in return, it's always worth it.

Seasonal depression can be super challenging. Yet it can also be easier than it's been in the years before. Try these hacks and also share others in the comments. You'll get through this, sis. Last year is a great reminder of that. Hang in there. This too shall pass.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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