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A therapist's guide to combatting the winter blues




Some of us love this time of year. The chill in the air, the bursts of warm colours in the leaves, the pumpkin spice everything. But for a lot of us, autumn and winter are not happy experiences. Many of us dread the change that this season brings: shorter days, longer periods of darkness, and colder temperatures that drive us indoors. Given that all of this intensifies as we move into these long winter months, all of these changes can feel like a precursor to misery.

For some of us, it’s just the ‘winter blues.’ We miss the warm temperatures of summer and all of our outdoor activities. We become bored or irritable being cooped up. However, it may be more than that. If you find that the change of seasons brings a drastic negative change to your mental health, certainly consider reaching out to a professional mental health provider. They can help you manage this episodic depression. But for those of us who just don’t enjoy the colder, darker days, there are some things that can dramatically improve your ability to cope.

The first thing is to have a game plan for activities. Often we are so busy with the activities of summer that we forget how doldrum the colder months can be. So when they arrive, we aren’t prepared for how much our schedules can slow. And while an easier schedule might be a welcome change, it can easily lead to boredom. And boredom can easily morph into depression. So have a plan of activities for these darker days. Stock up on jigsaw puzzles, family games, or books for fireside reading. Schedule time to be social. This can mean being intentional to see friends, or doing a social activity, such as a class at the gym, a wine and paint night, or a pottery or cooking class. And speaking of the gym, if outdoor fitness is your warm-weather jam, make sure you have a plan for how to take it indoors (or that you have gear to keep you warm outside). If you wait until you’re bored and frustrated to find things to do, it’s much more difficult to find enjoyable activities.

Second, have a plan for when the weather warms. The long nights of winter can make spring seem like it will never arrive. Plan a vacation or an activity you can really look forward to. This not only helps us remember that spring will arrive but feeling optimistic about the future is one of the keys to happiness. When we are happy, we are more optimistic. But the reverse is also true: when we are optimistic, we are happier. So keep your mind engaged with a positive future outlook.

Third, focus on the changes that are positive. Going to bed in a nice, cool room provides better quality sleep. It’s fun to start wearing jeans and boots and hoodies again. The scents of candles are warm and cosy. In fact, these months can provide a host of options to enjoy being cosy inside with people you love and quieter activities you can enjoy. And even if you can’t get into any of that, remember, it won’t last forever. Life, like the weather, exists in seasons.


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.