Ten Tips To Kick The Winter Blahs


The gray clouds today inspired me to do a little write up for people who struggle with the seemingly endless gray of a Pacific Northwest winter. This blog post is a little longer than my usual blog posts, because there’s a lot of things that can help!

1. Wake up to light: you can use a dedicated light simulating alarm clock, such as the Sunrise Alarm Clock, or just use an outlet timer.  Plug in a lamp, and set the lamp to turn on about 15 minutes before you want to get out of bed. Spend some time lying in bed, stretching, letting the light hit your face/eyes/brain. When your regular alarm goes off you’ll be surprised at how awake and ready you feel to face the day. This is especially effective with using a full spectrum bulb!

2. Make your bed: once you’re up, turn around and make the bed. This helps because it stops you from getting back in it! And starting your day having accomplished something is really beneficial for mental health. Plus, when it’s time to go to bed, no matter how chaotic or crazy the day was, you have a nice sanctuary waiting for you for sleep.

3. Caffeine: proper dosing, proper time. If you imbibe, stick to at most 100 mg/100 lbs of body weight. This is about 1 cup of coffee. The amount of caffeine in tea really varies, depending on type and brewing technique, but in general it has less caffeine than coffee. Aim for having your cup about 2-3 hours after you wake up, when your morning light elevated cortisol levels have started to wane. Avoid having caffeine past 3 pm; this will interrupt your cortisol/melatonin rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep.

4. Get out of the house and revel in the winter season! Find the things you love about it that aren’t there the rest of the year. Go jump in some puddles. Pick up an armful of leaves and throw them in the air. Grab an umbrella and appreciate the striking contrast of leafless branches or evergreen silhouettes against a smooth gray sky. Admire the way frost edges fallen leaves. Being in nature has enormous benefits for our mental health, no matter the time of year, and there are still amazing things to appreciate in the fall and winter. Dress appropriately, because when you are comfortable you will enjoy it more.

5. Light therapies: There are many products for providing full spectrum light therapies. Look for a light that has a large surface area, and a brightness of 10, 000 LUX. Some examples include brands like Verilux and Nature Bright Sun Plus. Place the light about 14 inches at a slight angle from your face, and use for 20-30 minutes daily, preferably in the morning. It can take up to 2-3 weeks of daily use for the full beneficial effects to be noticeable.

6. Exercise: there’s an enormous amount of research that supports the importance of exercise for helping your body and brain regulate the hormones that influence your mood. Find a walking or workout buddy, get a jump rope, take a class, be a shelter volunteer dog walker, anything that motivates you to be more active! The bare minimum for these effects is 15 minutes 3 times/week; results may vary and you may need more.

7. Give yourself a break: it’s winter. You’re supposed to want to slow down. It’s hard to alter 10,000 year old biological rhythms in 100 years! Schedule more down time for yourself and don’t try to maintain the pace and produce the same as you do in the summer.

8. Alcohol: avoid it, or use only in moderation. It depletes nutrients that you need to support your mood and it interrupts your sleep hormone cycles, neither of which will help you in the winter.

9. If you’re really struggling, consider herbal, nutrient, or medication support. My favorite gentle botanical brighteners for non-internal use are essential oils, especially anything with citrus or lavender. These can be used in a diffuser or a drop added to olive oil and dabbed on the pulse points of your wrist. Make sure to use pure high quality essential (not fragrance) oils, and exercise caution if you have asthma, sensitive eyes, or sensitive skin.

10. Depression and suicide support: ask for help if you need it. The National Suicide Prevention line can be reached at: 1-800-273-8255. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, go to Imalive.org and message with someone. Everyone needs help sometime, and no matter how alone we feel there is always someone available who wants to help.

I hope you have enjoyed these 10 tips to kick the winter blahs! As usual, this blog post is provided for general information and is not a personal medical recommendation. For personal, naturopathic medical assistance with seasonal affective disorder, depression, or another health concern, consider scheduling a meet and greet to learn about how we might work together.

Happy healing,

Alicia Tremblay, ND

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