10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

New York got a million inches of snow this week, and these long days can be a bummer. So! My friend Gemma Correll, who lives in London and is no stranger to dark winters, put together a handy list of ways to beat the winter blues…

1. Get your Vitamin D. Studies say this helps, so it’s worth a shot. There are high levels of Vitamin D in mushrooms, fish, cheese, milk cereals and eggs (mushroom, haddock and cornflake omelette, anyone?).

2. Get a light box. A light box is, simply put, a super super bright lamp that you shine on your face in the morning. A lot of people credit their light box for elevated mood and a general lessening of grumpiness during the winter.

3. Get enough sleep. It’s important to get enough rest, but try to stick to your normal sleep schedule—oversleeping can make you feel groggy and grump(-ier).

4. Exercise. It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise when all you want to do is bundle up in a duvet (and/or a pile of fluffy animals) and weep quietly in a corner. But exercise really does help. Science says so, and science is always right. You don’t even have to leave the house. Do a little bit of living room yoga or dance around the house like no one’s watching to the Grease soundtrack. (Not that I do that. Ahem…)

5. Treat yourself. Winter is a difficult time; it’s perfectly reasonable to be feeling rubbish. Cheer yourself up with trashy TV, hot drinks and pudding, if that’s what makes you feel good. Snuggle up and read a book (I recommend something by David Sedaris), look at pictures of puppies on the internet or eat cookie dough straight from the tube. Basically, if it makes you happy, do it, because it’s winter and all bets are off.

And just for fun…

6. Stay warm and cozy.

7. Go for a walk around town.

8. Knit a sweater.

9. Bake a cake (and eat it).

10. Remember, seasons change. It won’t be winter forever. Soon it will be spring. Hayfever time, yay!

Thank you, Gemma! Only 44 days left of winter, we can do it!!! Any tips to add? xoxo

P.S. How to eat dinner, and how to drink wine.

(Illustrations by Gemma Correll. Top photo by Jamie Beck)

  1. these illustrations are wonderful and ideas are gud

  2. loved this! I actually bought vitamin D tablets last year and I think they did help- must get more! I’m in a cycle of trying to ‘eat healthily’ ie effectively diet and then eating treats in a binge- which I never usually do. I also think restricted eating is hard in the Winter. I’ve got a few friends who eat a very restrictive diet and look great- well look very thin- but one only works part time and the other can work from home/ be off ill whenever she likes and I’d say has at least a few days off a month for illness- which is great if you can but I really can’t do that with my work and don’t think getting ill all the time is really healthy personally- so I do struggle- the rest of the year is fine but it’s so cold and dark and sad that I really want things like pasta! I’m trying so hard! I think a light will help- and also I’m getting a heater for my room- it’s so cold in there!

  3. well this explains a lot why I’ve felt so down this winter! just had my annual checkup (TMI??) and my blood work showed lack of vitamin D!! maybe this will cure my winter blues to eat these suggestions! thanks girl!

  4. These are so great! I always get bummed during the winter, and it seems like my pregnancy hormones like to step it up and make me extra crazy during winter, too (side note: light box model lady was pregnant– coincidence? I think not! :). We couldn’t afford an actual light box the last time I was pregnant but I researched and learned that if you put an LED (or SUPER bright) bulb in a regular lamp and take the shade off, it can have a similar effect. So I would sit in front of a super bright light bulb every morning during my daily quiet time, and it really did help! Love these recommendations, and it’s true that sometimes taking a walk even in cold weather can really help, too. And if all else fails, get a prescription for an SSRI until you can move to a warmer climate ;-)

  5. We are definitely on opposite sides of the globe – I need some tips for surviving summer here in the southern hemisphere! It’s been up to 111 degrees F for the past few weeks and I (and my little men) am officially over it.

  6. I really struggle with the winter blues too. This year, I decided to keep fresh flowers around to make the apartment seem brighter, and I think it has helped. Also, lots of vitamin D, exercise and the light box– or as we call it the “happy light”! Little treats can help a lot like going out to a movie– which I NEVER do– or buying myself a special candle.

    Looking forward to spring with you!

  7. Great tips. Will keep them in mind for next year after we’ve moved to Kiev, Ukraine. Am preparing to purchase a happy lamp.

    -Katie H.

  8. Keeping hydrated is a must for me in the wintertime–I drink lots, lots of water and slather myself with a thick moisturizer.

  9. Keeping hydrated is a must for me in the wintertime–I drink lots, lots of water and slather myself with a thick moisturizer.

  10. I am a weirdo who loves the snow and always has (42 years of snow!). I don’t like the negative temps, though.
    Anyway, my favorite thing to do before and after having kids is to plan a delicious meal, with plenty of wine, and having a girlfriend come over to watch a movie and even stay over.
    I’m lucky that my hubby is a great guy and doesn’t mind the “intrusion” (unless it’s a romantic movie — God forbid!).
    I try to make fun memories when we’re all stuck inside, which includes arts & crafts with my little ones.

  11. I live in Texas and I get the opposite disorder – the Heat Swamp Blues. After six months+ of sweltering heat, I am near tears most mornings. Please share any tips you find for that malaise (other than ice in my bra.)

  12. dc says...

    Unseasonably cold here but as usual the sun is shining! I’ve been skiing with friends the last 4 days in a row up at our local state park–stunningly beautiful! This morning the temperature is -9F so I think I’ll shovel the walk, fill the bird feeders and enjoy the snow from our cozy living room.

    I love Gemma’s illos!

  13. “It won’t be winter forever. Soon it will be spring. Hayfever time, yay!”

    << Like what you said :D >>>>

  14. Cook soups and stews! They aren’t just for winter time, but sometimes they make you fee like winter isn’t so bad! Bake bread and cakes and fatten up a little!

  15. This article has come on the right day for me, after missing yet another day of work because of bad weather (tho ours is rain and not snow). Such a good read today.

  16. I lived in Lithuania for four years and winters were long and dark. My favourite thing to do was throwing parties or informal dinners. Everybody loves a get-together when it´s cold and gloomy and you feel like the perfect host with little effort! And everything is easier surrounded by friends.

  17. Thank you, I needed this!

  18. Thank you, I needed this!

  19. Thank you, I needed this!

  20. Yes! Winter makes me want to bake, bake, bake and eat, eat, eat. And I don’t feel bad about it one bit!

  21. Gemma Carroll’s illustrations crack me up! Add that to the list of ways to beat the winter blues!

  22. Love this post! Short and funny YouTube videos are great too. I’ve been watching Discovery channel’s Alaska’s Last Frontier lately and comparing their winters to mine, makes me feel so much better. Ha!

  23. Here in Pennsylvania we’re expecting 1/2 an inch of ice over everything tonight… I’ll have to put these tips to use! :)

  24. Love Gemma’s illustrations, and these are all good tips. I might invest in a light box. I also think one of those SAD alarm clocks are a good idea too, so you’re woken up gradually and naturally rather than panicked awake.

  25. I live in Michigan, so this is always an issue for me – at least, it was until I got my dog. I’ve found that going on daily walks with her – the companionship, the sun, the exercise – has totally cured my winter blues. This is the fourth year of dog love and I haven’t gotten depressed in the winter since she arrived!

  26. I work in health care (in Maine) so we hear a lot about vitamin D. It can be really hard to get the recommended amount through diet alone, so it’s a good idea to take a supplement if you are worried about getting enough – I usually recommend about 1200 units per day for my patients!

  27. i think for me it has been less about the snow (although I am over that…oh, and it is snowing right now. 10-12 inches they say) but that it has been so so cold. In Illinois, we have had so many days of -20 to -40 windchill. You can not even go outside. The house is cold. The car does not start. There is no school. It is so bad.

  28. Practising no. 6 right now! Would never make it through the dark Scandinavian winter without extra vitamin D. It’s a lifesaver!

  29. I took a nap on my sofa today cuddling my 10 week old baby and watching a Britney Spears documentary… Perfect!

  30. These are great suggestions! It’s been a cold, sloppy winter here in NYC, so like you, I’m really anxious for spring to get here. The annoying thing is it always arrives way later than I think it will.

    My tip is instituting a tea time around 4 p.m., with nice teas and snacks. It can add structure to a cold, dreary day indoors.

  31. Good list!
    I don’t know if its the reason, but since I’ve been taking daily vitamin D, as opposed to when I remember or here and there, I sleep better as well as longer.

    Listening to music also helps, and sometimes instigates dancing.

  32. I think keeping in touch with friends is a biggie. I tend to hibernate in the winter and i forget to make contact with people I usually see when I’m out and about. I love these tips. Winter is always rough for me. I need to look into the light box idea.

  33. A big thing for me is to make soup or stock. It simmers away half the day on the stove and makes my condo smell delicious and cozy.

    Otherwise, though, I live in California and we could use more gray/rainy days here if it meant averting drought!

  34. I grew up in Florida, and never had a white winter or even a hint of snow. I didn’t even see snow until I was 11. I’ve since moved to Oregon and see snow each year. I think I have a fondness for the winter since I didn’t have that growing up. When I’m feeling dark and gloomy about the rain and gray days, I just try to remind myself about when I was younger, and how I would’ve loved to see some snow and feel cold. Also, getting outside and letting the snow fall on my face really helps! Hang in there through the dark and gloomy days, spring is just around the corner! :)

  35. very cute drawings :) also what happened to your links to other blogs?

  36. Yes! definitely timely. getting out of the house helps too. while my kids are at kindergarten/preschool I’m checking email at a coffee shop instead of the house.

  37. I can’t wait until winter ends. I am over wearing layers, coats, mittens, hats, boots, etc. I’m sick of snow and ice and gray days.

  38. I honestly was just on my local ABC affilate talking about the same thing… Winter blues is a hot topic right now! Here’s a link if you’re interested:

    It’s the “Beating Winter Blues-Coach Colene” one! Hope you all enjoy!

    Stay warm!

  39. Joanna, I live in AB, Canada! Brrr lol. Oh I would love to move to Florida!! Or AZ :) :)

  40. manicures. i never got them until this winter. every 2 weeks. it’s been the best “cheer-up”

  41. so funny.
    just received my light box today in the mail :) and I love it already!

  42. Great tips Joanna! I think of winter as the perfect time to do all the indoor activities I love…libraries, museums, movies, fun restaurants. Then save summer for park days and barbecues!

  43. Fresh fruits and veggies if possible. Less processed sugar because it can cause mood and energy crash. A good uplifting book or a mystery.

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  45. a great list. As for one living in the great north i agree with it. But must admit she left out an important one : sex! (not to be vulgar) But the endorphines, closeness and intimacy sure do wash those winter blues away!

  46. Skiing and snow tubing makes winter so much more enjoyable. You get tons of exercise and fresh air and it is so exhilarating! I used to ski (night ski too) often when I was a kid and young adult. Since I met and married a guy from Louisiana, I haven’t gone but I need to start it up again. Maybe in a few years when my daughter can join my husband on the bunny slope! :D

  47. I’m an expat living in Iceland, where we have around four hours of “daylight” in the thick of winter. Icelanders swear by using Vitamin D, exercise, cozy candles (ha), and those light alarm clocks that simulate the sun rising to help ward off the winter blues. It works!

  48. A snow day in the Midwest (6 – 10 inches!) so this is great timing. I’m craving the sunshine and may buy that darn light.

  49. I love the dancing around the living room tip because I also do that & it totally works. Instant picker upper. I even extend the idea to the office. If I’m feeling particularly bummed out, I put my headphones on with the best dance music and actually imagine myself dancing around at my favorite old club. This works wonders at beating the blues! :)

  50. Adorable and much needed. This is my first real winter ever (I just moved to NYC from Florida) and it’s slowly driving me nuts!

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  52. I am in Edmonton, Canada, where it is -19C today. Oh… I understand completely. My best advice for winter and keeping warm is 1. Wear enough layers when going outside and 2. Move faster!

  53. Małgosia, i wish i loved winter! i get claustrophobic when it’s so cold and dark outside. there’s nothing better than that first spring day!

  54. meadow, where do you live? you have to move to florida :)

  55. I love Gemma’s illustrations! The knit sweater cartoon is very adorbs and true to life, I’m afraid!

  56. Sometimes I get the impression that there is a lot of marketing out there persuading us that winter is the time we’re supposed to be depressed just so that we buy all those products they want to sell us.

    Whenever I see yet another ad on TV asking me “Are you feeling blue?” I feel like screaming at the TV “no thank you, I’m fine, I love winter!”. is it just me?

  57. How cute are these! I took your advice last weekend before I’d even read it, and baked a cake and ate it! Winter weight, shminter weight.

  58. jm says...

    Love this, especially since when I look out the window I see snow piled up! It is good to be reminded to take charge and do soemthing to make the housebound days better! Love Gemma’s illustrations.

  59. this is great joanna. i always find just getting off my butt and going outside does the trick– as much as i don’t want to!

  60. i love gemma’s illustrations! so absolutely charming. i’m starting to find myself impatiently waiting for spring, but this was a good reminder to embrace the present. x

  61. Where I live, there’s snow from October thru April, and it sometimes snows in May. It’s currently -20C. It is very depressing. I try to do all of these things, but I find the light box doesn’t work… vitamin D doesn’t seem to help… I feel hopeless. I do need to exercise more, though. We are trying to move somewhere warmer… I just can’t take this weather :(

  62. This is so lovely. I love Gemma’s illustrations. It’s my first winter in Montreal and man is it cold here! I’m trying to embrace it though, I’ve been going skating as much as I can and am drinking loads of tea! Winter definitely has it’s perks.

  63. I love this because it reminds me im not the only one feeling the blues this time of year :)

  64. Haha I must share with my friends! x thanks

  65. Awwww. This is sweet. Thanks for the smile. : )

  66. these illustrations are amazing! and what wonderful ideas :)