9 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Beat the Fall and Winter Blues
When your mood is falling as fast as the thermometer, these small lifestyle changes may help boost your spirits.
If you’re starting to feel like nothing but a very full, very strong pot of coffee will get you out of bed, join the club. Summer’s over and back-to-school drudgery is a very real thing (even if you’re not actually going back to school). Get a jump on beating those blues—even before the leaves start to change—with these scientifically proven ways to lift your spirits and feel good all fall and winter long, no matter how short the days get or how low the temperatures drop.
1. Give your skin some TLC
There’s no denying that your skin looks better in the summer, with its sun-kissed glow and fresh dewiness (thank you, humidity). There’s also no denying that as temperatures and humidity levels plummet, all that cold, dry air takes a toll on your complexion. That’s why fall is the perfect time to up your skin game. Reevaluate the ingredients in your skincare routine and get the pros involved. Talk to your dermatologist about the best topical ingredients to use, such as retinol and peptides. Talk to your doctor about giving your skin a boost from the inside out with a beauty supplement that contains ingredients like collagen, found in products such as NeoCell. After all, who doesn’t feel better when their skin looks good?
2. Make your environment brighter
When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.
3. Eat smarter
Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
4. Simulate dawn
People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator ($50; walgreens.com), a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.
A 2005 study from Harvard suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week, or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try these mood boosting workouts.
6. Turn on the tunes
In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.
7. Plan a vacation
Longing for sunnier days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.
8. Help others
Ladling out soup at the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction.
9. Get outside
Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.