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Six Research Backed Ways to Beat the Winter Blues and Protect Your Mental Health

It’s that time of year again! After fall comes to a close and winter begins to bear its head, many of us find ourselves in a little slump. During December, the holidays usually keep many of us occupied, however the months of January and February sometimes seem to drag by endlessly. Some people even fall victim to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as “Seasonal Depression”). In fact, researcher Darren Cotterell (2010) found that approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population is diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder! As a therapist, I would like to empower my readers and clients with some tips that can help them battle the blues. Here are seven simple tricks that can help you protect your mental health this winter:

1. Get Moving!

Getting plenty of exercise can help safeguard against Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months (and year-round)! In fact, research has shown that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression just as effectively as antidepressant medications (Robinson & Segal, 2017). It is recommended to aim for about 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily in order to notice significant benefits. However, even a little exercise is better than no exercise at all. Additionally, if you can get yourself moving outside in natural sunlight, you may notice a stronger positive effect than if you chose to do your exercise indoors.

2.    Find a Buddy Who Loves Winter! According to research, emotions can be contagious. When people chose to surround themselves with happy individuals, they tend to feel more content and less stressed out themselves (Carter, 2012). Therefore, scheduling social plans with a positive, winter-loving friend can help influence your own mood, outlook and feelings about the colder weather and winter months.

3.    Brighten Up Your Home. Open your windows and turn on your lights! Perhaps, even invest in a special light box that can be used to treat Seasonal Depression, such as this one here: Research shows that sitting next to a light box such as this one for 30 minutes a day can be just as effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder as Anti-Depressant medications (Hauck, n.d.).

4.    Book a Vacation! If possible, treat yourself to a short vacation or weekend getaway. Choose a warm destination such as southern Florida or the Caribbean to get a healthy dose of “summer” weather. According to Dr. Rohan  “Across the board, [Seasonal Affective Disorder] patients will tell [mental health practitioners that] they feel better [after taking vacations]” (Orlov, 2014).

5.    Take Vitamin D Supplements. According to re