For those of us with depression, the weather outside isn’t the only “frightful” thing this time of year. As the days grow darker and we spend more time indoors, our mental health can take a serious hit.

Some mentally well people get a taste of this called the “winter blues”. Others experience a temporary depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those who suffer from depression year-round can experience symptoms more than usual.

Does this mean the holidays are hopeless? Of course not! It just means we have to implement more coping strategies in the winter than we do other times of the year.

Not sure where to get started? Check out this list of ways to survive depression during the holidays.

1. Up Your Vitamin D Levels

Sunlight reaches our bodies far less during the winter, so our vitamin D levels can go down. Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to fatigue and weaker bones, causing more chronic pain in the body—two things that can contribute to depression.

Restore your vitamin D levels by taking supplements or eating foods that are rich in it. (Fatty fish like salmon or tuna, eggs, mushrooms, and foods fortified with vitamin D like cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereal.)

2. Go Outside As Much As Possible

Less sunlight means our days feel shorter and night feels constant. This makes us feel like we’re pushing to stay awake when we’re pretty sure it’s bedtime.

To give your days life again, do as much as you can while the sun’s still out. Wake up before sunrise, run errands during the day, go on an afternoon walk, and eat dinner early. Plus, physcial movement can give you those feel-good endorphins!

3. Get a Light Therapy Box

Some of us don’t have the luxury of picking our own schedules to get outside during the day. For that, we have light therapy!

Light therapy boxes are an affordable and simple way to give yourself a mood boost. To actually help, read or work near the light box so that light enters your eyes directly. Exposure to the skin alone will not help. (This is why tanning beds are not good light therapy alternatives.)

Come up with a schedule to use the box consistently so your body knows when to expect it. (Just like how we expect the sun to last for a certain amount of time during the day.)

Light therapy sessions should last anywhere between 10-30 minutes per day. 

4. Practice Gratitude Whenever You Can

We know from research that practicing gratitude weekly (or even better, daily) has significant benefits for our mental and physical health. Even people with chronic health conditions have reported feeling less bothered by symptoms after a few weeks of it.

How can you practice gratitude in your life?

One way is to get a journal and a pen. At the end of every week (or day), write five things that made you feel happy, excited, peaceful, or understood this week.

After a while, you’ll start noticing the beautiful parts of everyday around you. Life itself will feel more positive because you’re taking the time to sit, notice, and genuinely appreciate it.

Another way is to pick a family member, a friend, or an old mentor that always made you feel special. Maybe they had a knack for cracking jokes during the hard times, or they gave you advice that sank in after you could tell them in person.

Write a handwritten letter properly thanking them for how they contributed to your life. You don’t have to give it to them if you don’t want to. Doing it will at least fill your head with the warm fuzzies you’re craving this time of year. Plus, it reminds you that you’re loved.

If you need more help fighting off dark thoughts in the winter, contact us to start counseling today! It can be nice to have someone in your corner—all year round.