7 of the Best Ways to Combat Seasonal Depression

The cold months come with plenty comfort food and opportunities to cozy up to the fire. On the flip side, they may also put you in a seasonal funk. During the fall and winter months, Mayo Clinic says seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression, may kick in. It usually causes a lack of energy, irritability, oversleeping, and even weight gain.

This is obviously bad news for anyone who finds themselves dealing with seasonal depression every year. Fortunately, there are some things you can do. If the change in weather causes an unusual shift in your mood, these seven remedies may help.

1. Light therapy

Vertical screen on dark background

Light therapy used to treat seasonal affective disorder | iStock.com/Hreni

For some people with SAD, light therapy may help ease symptoms. According to Harvard Health Publications, these special light boxes provide lighting that’s 100 times brighter than normal indoor bulbs. By using one for 30 minutes a day, it may help restore a normal circadian rhythm, which the National Sleep Foundation describes as our internal clock that keeps our sleep cycles normal. The change in the amount of sunlight we get during the cold months can throw our circadian rhythms off balance because there are fewer hours of natural light during the day. Light therapy may help stimulate the part of the brain that regulates this cycle, easing the symptoms of seasonal depression. Speak with your doctor before starting, as light therapy may not be the best approach for those with certain conditions.

2. Let more daylight in

living room with window

A living room with open curtains to let sunlight in to combat seasonal depression | iStock.com

According to Mayo Clinic, arranging your home in a way that allows you to let more sunlight in may be an effective home remedy for treating seasonal depression. The article suggests trimming tree branches that block sunlight and keeping blinds open throughout the day to maximize sunlight exposure. Even sitting by a window while you’re at home or at work may be helpful.

3. Get outside

Man talking on mobile phone

A man enjoying coffee and talking on the phone outside | iStock.com/Rawpixel Ltd

Another natural way to increase sunlight exposure is to make sure to spend time outdoors, even when the days get colder. The UC Davis Medical Center says we don’t always realize the difference in sunlight from being indoors versus outdoors. The article says taking a walk every day or eating outside may benefit those who have mild or moderate symptoms. Mayo Clinic suggests spending some time outside within the first two hours of waking each day to help ease symptoms. And don’t be deterred by grey skies because this works when it’s cloudy as well.

4. Meditation

A man meditating outside to increase positive energy

A man meditating outside to increase positive energy | iStock.com

According to a 2014 meta-analysis, mindfulness meditation can help improve symptoms of depression. Researchers reviewed 47 trials that included more than 3,000 participants, finding depression and anxiety improved over time for those who practiced mindful meditation. If you’re looking for a natural remedy to help ease seasonal depression, it may be useful to make time to practice this form of mind-body therapy each day. You can even get started with the help of an app.

5. Make smart food choices

blueberries in a ceramic dish

A bowl of fresh blueberries | iStock.com

Healthline Networks mentions including wholesome foods like salmon, berries, and eats rich in vitamins D and B12 may be beneficial for combating seasonal depression. Additionally, foods filled with tryptophan may help promote relaxation and sleepiness, which can help regulate your circadian rhythm. It’s important to note these healthy choices now because during the colder months, cravings for high-carb foods may increase. However, eating sweets and fatty foods might not be what’s best if you’re trying to combat SAD. They can temporarily boost energy levels, but many of them leave you feeling even worse in a few hours.

6. Exercise

A man going for a walk outside

A man going for a walk outside | iStock.com

Don’t ditch your exercise routine just because the temperature drops. Harvard Health Publications highlights a study that found a 35-minute brisk walk five times each week, or 60-minutes three days a week, may benefit those with moderate or mild depression symptoms. Exercise releases endorphins, which boost energy and feelings of positivity, WebMD explains. Besides, staying active is one of the best things you can do for your body in general. Make exercise a regular part of your week to reduce stress, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep, which may all help fight off seasonal depression. You might even be able to shave off a few pounds.

7. Medication

prescription pills falling out of a bottle

Medication to fight off seasonal affective disorder | iStock.com

If home and lifestyle remedies don’t work, speak with your doctor about medications you can use to help ease symptoms, especially if they become severe. There are some antidepressants that may be effective, but Mayo Clinic says it may take several weeks to notice much of a change. Even if you opt for medication, it’s still a good idea to opt for some positive lifestyle changes. So, be sure to speak with your physician to figure out what the best course of action is for you.