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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