Winter Depression Facts and Six Ways to Cope

If the colder weather and the shorter days are causing you to experience serious changes in your mood, you’re definitely not alone. According to Cleveland Clinic, current winter depression facts include the sobering statistic that about 5% of American adults experience serious seasonal depression, while 10%-20% experience a milder version called the “winter blues.”

Winter depression, the proper name of which is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), isn’t just in your head. This type of depression, which normally starts in the fall, begins to manifest as temperatures plummet. We start to spend more time inside, which can seclude us from our friends and families. Add to that an earlier sunset and reduced daily sunshine and it’s understandable why your mood might take a downturn.

Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms include increased sadness and anxiety, trouble sleeping, feelings of hopelessness, and the loss of interest in activities you would normally enjoy. Severity of symptoms vary, and some people also experience thoughts of self harm, or suicide.

 

Notable facts about winter depression:

  • Winter depression is more common in young people and women
  • SAD is a form a major depressive disorder, even if it’s only seasonal
  • Where you live can play a role in your likelihood of developing SAD—for example, the prevalence is much higher in Oslo, Norway than New York City

There are some other major factors that can also lead to seasonal depression. Changes in your biological clock (which can impact mood), as well as sunlight reduction which can lower serotonin output and reduce levels of vitamin D.

However, just as important as understanding these facts, is knowing how to help yourself overcome seasonal depression. Below, we’re sharing helpful ways to cope with the winter blues and SAD.

How to Make Yourself Feel Good in the Winter

Seasonal fatigue—fall or winter—can be difficult to manage. In cases of severe SAD, getting professional help is strongly encouraged. However, there are also lifestyle changes that you can implement that have been known to make a difference. Here are some of the big ones.

Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. You don’t need to become a devoted yogi, but do try to work some of these practices into your day to day—even if it’s just some light meditation when you wake up in the mornings.

Exercise.

Not only does exercise release endorphins that can make us feel better, it’s also been found to be effective in treating depressive symptoms. So keep your body moving, even when you feel like you’d rather just stay in bed.

Try a light box.

Light boxes, also called light therapy boxes, mimic natural sunlight to help invoke a positive response in the brain. The jury is out on just how effective they are, but it’s an easy thing to try, and many people find light boxes to be helpful for winter depression.

Get as much sunshine as possible.

It may feel like there’s no sun in the winter, but that’s not exactly true. Take advantage of the sunshine that does occur by opening your blinds in the morning and trying out some of those aforementioned outdoor activities.

Therapy and supplemental medications.

Traditional depression therapies like psychotherapy and medication (particularly antidepressants) could be very effective in the treatment of SAD and are worth bringing up with your doctor. Learn about our telehealth services, which offer professional care right from the comfort and convenience of your home.

Winter depression is normal, and it can happen to anyone. Please contact us if you would like to speak with a specialist or doctor about SAD or depression in general, and know that help is available, regardless of the severity of your symptoms.