They aren’t called the Winter Blues by coincidence! Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of mental illness that causes a spike in depression and anxiety during a specific season. For most people, this occurs during the winter months when the sun is hiding and you’re hibernating. Fortunately, there are many activities for seasonal affective disorder you can do to battle the blues and decrease depression and anxiety during this time of year.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, in short, is seasonal depression or anxiety that is experienced during a specific season. Typically, SAD occurs during the winter when days are short, dark and dreary, sunlight is limited, and people are spending more time inside. In addition to not receiving the benefits of the sun, you’re also not getting as much fresh air as you spend less time outdoors and more time inside, and all of your windows and doors are closed, trapping in low-quality air. Since you’re stuck indoors, most people tend to be less active during the winter season too. Put all of this together and winter is the prime season for your mental health and mood to drop.
Although, winter isn’t always the culprit as some people experience summer seasonal affective disorder too.
Seasonal Depression Symptoms
Seasonal depression manifests with a range of symptoms that typically occur during specific seasons, most commonly in fall and winter. These symptoms can significantly impact daily life and well-being. Here are some key indicators to be aware of:
- Low Mood: Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness that linger throughout the day.
- Lack of Energy: A noticeable decrease in energy levels and increased fatigue, even with sufficient rest.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns: Disrupted sleep, either sleeping more than usual (hypersomnia) or experiencing difficulty falling and staying asleep (insomnia).
- Appetite Changes: Shifts in appetite, leading to overeating or, conversely, a loss of interest in food.
- Irritability: Heightened irritability or difficulty concentrating on tasks.
- Social Withdrawal: A tendency to withdraw from social activities and a decreased interest in usual hobbies.
- Weight Changes: Significant fluctuations in weight, either gain or loss.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Challenges in maintaining focus and concentration on daily tasks.
- Feelings of Hopelessness: Persistent feelings of despair or a sense of emptiness.
Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for seeking timely support and implementing effective coping strategies to navigate the challenges associated with seasonal depression.
60 Ways To Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder
The good news is that whether you’re experiencing seasonal depression, seasonal anxiety or a hefty dose of both, there are some incredible activities and relaxation techniques that can help you keep those winter blues at bay.
Partake in Winter Activities to Fight Off Seasonal Depression and Anxiety
In order to stay as positive as possible during the winter season, you must find ways to enjoy winter. It’s as simple as that. Finding something that you love to do that can only be done during the winter season is an excellent way to keep yourself excited and happy about the season arriving/being here.
Here are some winter activity ideas to add to your winter bucket list:
- Take a winter walk
- Enjoy the light festivals
- Try some seasonal drinks at your favourite cafe
- Go sledding
- Take a walk in snowshoes
- Start a snowball fight
- Build a snow fort
- Go ice skating
- Take your hockey or ringette skills to an outdoor rink
- Go tubing at a local ski hill
- Attend local holiday markets
- Take skiing or snowboarding lessons
- Have a bonfire and roast some marshmallows (this mini portable campfire candle is perfect for some backyard fun)
- Go dog sledding
- Book a cabin
- Try winter camping in a yurt
Self Care Winter Activities for SAD
It’s not just for sundays! Self care consists of any activity that makes you feel good spiritually, mentally, physically and/or emotionally. So, it’s good all year round, especially when the season has you feeling bogged down with seasonal depression and anxiety.
Here are some winter self care activities to try:
- Have an at-home spa day
- Get a massage (touch alleviates anxiety)
- Treat yourself to a mani-pedi
- Enjoy a trip to a local spa
- Curl up in a cozy weighted blanket for a movie night
- Add a couple of drops of soothing essential oils into your diffuser
- Take a relaxing bath with seasonal scents
- Head on a weekend getaway
- Read a self-improvement book
- Create a calming space in your home
- Get your hair done
- Go for brunch with a friend
- Do absolutely nothing – and no feeling guilty about it
- Bake some holiday treats – and enjoy them, guilt-free
- Fill your home with seasonal flowers
- Take a nap
- Start colouring in a meditation colouring book (studies found absolutely incredible results for adult colouring and mental health)
- Boost your environment with mental health-friendly plants
Daily Self Care Practices for Fighting Off Seasonal Depression
It’s important to set the intention of starting every day with a healthy, positive mindset. Your thoughts create your reality and the more negative you think, the worse you’ll feel. Unfortunately, seasonal depression is known for taking over an optimistic spirit and turning it into a hefty dose of negativity. So, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to keep your mind happy and healthy.
Here are some daily winter activities that can help fight off winter anxiety and depression:
- Avoid any and all traditions that don’t make you feel good, happy or healthy (or that cause too much stress)
- Say ‘no’ to toxic family traditions
- Make your bed first thing in the morning
- Start your day with meditation
- Keep a journal
- Practice gratitude (various studies have found gratitude to have amazing results for mental health)
- Write down the good things that happen every day
- Aim to spend at least 15 minutes outside (or sit in front of a SAD light)
- Declutter your home (mess equals stress)
- Improve your daily sleep habits
- Add mood-boosting oils to your essential oil diffuser
- Sing out loud
- Pull an affirmation card each morning
- Stretch it out and physically shake out any anxiety and depression
- Take up a yoga class for anxiety and depression
- Dance around your home
- Pay attention to your thoughts and change them to be positive
- Do a daily mental health check-in
- Stay organized
Extra Activities For Treating Seasonal Depression and Anxiety
If you need a couple more ideas for treating anxiety and depression in the winter (or any time of year, really), try some of these activities:
- Listen to binaural audio tones to re-write your brain chemistry
- Take care of a plant (especially if it’s a plant for mental health)
- Try a new hobby
- Plan a weekend getaway
- Say “Yes” to things YOU want to do
- Say “No” to things you don’t want to do
- Take time for yourself
- Wear an anxiety spinning ring
- Limit the time spent on toxic relationships
- Avoid hanging out with people who don’t make you feel good
- Say “No” to commitments that make you too busy
- Speak with a professional with online therapy
- Enjoy some retail therapy at our online mental health shop
There are so many incredible ways to start managing seasonal affective disorder and reducing seasonal depression and anxiety; most of which don’t even cost a dime! So, treat yourself to these fun winter activities and the season may not seem as so unbearable.
This blog post is sponsored by BetterHelp online therapy, but all opinions are my own. I may receive compensation from BetterHelp or other sources if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.