Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight throughout the day. These “winter blues” are actually a form of depression which tend to recur around the same time each year and can have a major impact on your daily routine. Activities you usually take joy in may begin to feel like chores. You may become irritable and snap at others easily. For many, the winter blues keep you feeling bogged down and helpless. For a detailed list of SAD signs and symptoms, check out CAMH’s list here which also includes risk factors.

If your mood has been affected by SAD, check out these 5 simple tips that are sure to help boost your spirit and beat the winter blues!

1. Stick to a sleep routine

While it may be tempting to get in some extra shut eye on dark mornings, beating the winter blues means it’s best to stick to a sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day will help your body curb moodiness. Also, make sure you’re getting a decent amount of sleep each night – about seven hours a night will leave you feeling refreshed in the morning.

2. Get active!

Remember those endorphins we all learned about in high school? Releasing those happy hormones will help boost your mood – at least temporarily. Exercising releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. When combined, these chemicals work together to make you feel good. Thirty minutes of intense exercise every day will definitely help curb the winter blues (and may even get you on track to a slim/ fit body by spring time!).

3. Continue eating healthy

During the cold, dark winter months it’s common to desire comfort foods which are normally high in carbohydrates and sugar. As MD Anderson explains, it’s best to resist or limit temptation. Spikes to our blood sugar may provide temporary highs, but the drop is what causes us to feel more tired and moody. Sticking to lean meats and plant-based proteins (vegetables, beans and nuts) will restore energy in our bodies and maintain a consistent median.

Active Beat has put together a list of the top 10 foods to beat winter “blahs.” Check them out here!

4. Get social!

Having something to look forward to makes everyone happy. Whether that be arranging a dinner with friends, planning a trip to your local winter market, checking out a new restaurant that opened, or volunteering your time at a favourite charity. You know yourself best, plan something that will bring excitement to your week. Say, something that while you’re at work you’re actually looking forward to for the weekend. (If you have even an ounce of dread when thinking about it, then that’s definitely not it!) And, the more the merrier! You’re likely not the only one in your group of friends who is feeling a bit down this winter. Ask a friend who would be interested to join along and make it an event!

5. Try something new

Ever considered taking on a new hobby? Most of us have been tempted to try something new but never seem to find the time to get around to actually doing it. Well, considering this the perfect time to get out there and try something new! Perhaps you’ve been thinking of scrapbooking all those old photos you have lying around in boxes? Take a trip to your local craft store and pick up the items you need to get started. Or, maybe that yoga studio you walk by on your way home every night has a class that would be perfect for you. Stop in and inquire! How about joining a pick-up basketball or volleyball class at your community centre? You could probably find out all the info you need online to confirm time and dates each sport runs. Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, take the steps now to see if it would be a good match for you.

If making lifestyle changes really hasn’t brought you relief from SAD, consider speaking with your healthcare provider. Your primary care clinician will be able to ask the right questions and provide other solutions. Diagnostic tests (such as blood work) will be able to determine if your vitamin D levels are low. Alternatively, your doctor may find it best to prescribe medication or therapy to help provide adequate relief of your systems.