How to Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, winter, anxiety social withdrawal, Vitamin D, exercise, meditation, intention

With daylight savings time comes shorter days, colder temperatures, and darker mornings.

Winter can be a challenging time for many people. How do you feel as the days get shorter and colder? Do you gain weight or slack on your workout routine? What is your script about winter that you tell yourself and others?

If you honestly answer these questions, you will begin to see a pattern of behavior that may keep you stuck in a negative winter experience. Let’s start with some reality testing, which is to say, recognizing that you have the power to FLIP YOUR SCRIPT about winter. There is no problem with modifying your routine because of the change in weather, but it does not have to be depressing or limiting. How you experience the colder months is totally up to you.

If you are debilitated in the winter months in a way that seriously impacts the quality of your life, you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Winter depression, as it is also called, is biochemical in nature, brought on by the lack of sunshine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, winter-onset SAD symptoms include:

Loss of energy
Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
Social withdrawal
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Difficulty concentrating

The Vitamin D Link

Numerous studies indicate that people suffering from seasonal affective disorder tend to have a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is not found in vast quantities in food. Mainly, our bodies produce vitamin D from the sun’s rays hitting our skin. So, when there’s not as much sun and you’re indoors more, there’s less Vitamin D being produced. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D level. If you do have a deficiency, your doctor will recommend a daily Vitamin D supplement and the appropriate dosing. Vitamin D pills are inexpensive and can be purchased at most grocery stores and pharmacies. There are also specially designed lamps whose rays mimic sunlight to help with the body’s Vitamin D production. Studies have proven that sitting in front of these lamps for as little as thirty minutes a day can also affect brain chemicals linked to mood, thereby easing SAD symptoms. As with any medical condition, consult with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

Keep Radiating!

Once Seasonal Affective Disorder is ruled out or remedied, you can focus on actions and attitudes within your control. Decide how you want to feel and make choices in line with that goal.

Some ways to stay inspired this season include:

1. Exercise

Commit to at least thirty minutes of exercise everyday. If you live in an area with harsh winters, exercising outdoors might require extra planning or may not be an option. Try a Yoga DVD and turn your living room into your own mini studio. Thanks to Sandy and now the nor’easter, I’m digging Tara Stiles 4 DVD set—variety is the spice of life and thwarts boredom! Lots of DVDs, YouTube videos, and magazines offer at-home workouts that require little or no equipment. Dancing around to inspiring music is free, easy, fun, and not to mention can burn some serious calories! Find what you enjoy, and you’re more likely to stick to it. Exercise gets your endorphins (feel good hormones) flowing, which is one of the best cures for the winter blues.

2. Meditation

Every summer sunset, day at the beach, and lazy outdoor afternoon is just a visualization away. Since you have internalized all of these experiences, a dedicated meditation practice can help you consciously access them. Create a sacred space in your home that reminds you of all of the summer experiences you love and get your butt on the pillow for a few minutes a day. You may be amazed at how this lifts your mood.

3. Intention

You are the same person in July as in November. You can actively choose to FLIP YOUR SCRIPT about the winter months and create a joyful and inspired fall/winter season this year. The past need not dictate your future. The power of your intention is mind blowing. So set your intention on creating and maintaining your radiance from the inside out and see what magic your new attitude brings.

If you have struggled during the winter months in the past, remember now is not then. On autopilot, your mind and body can slip into familiar patterns of behavior that have not served you, but you have the power to choose. Practice extreme self-care this season and enjoy feeling and looking good all year round!

Are you the type of person who notices a shift in mood once the clocks turn back? How do you manage to shine like the sun even when it hasn’t been making much of an appearance? What tips can you offer to beat the winter blues? Do you struggle with SAD or a less-severe version of the winter blues and need advice?

Love Love Love


  • I love this! The three tips at the end are perfect for me because things get so busy during the holidays but we can totally take time to weave those important steps in to our daily lives. Thanks Terri!! <3

  • terri cole

    You are so welcome Nitika! I work year round to keep those three things consistent and when I succeed my life flows with ease and grace and when I fail my husband is SAD ;)

  • Haha I bet he is!! Good for you, for keeping this in check, love it!

  • Victor Juhasz

    Had slackened a bit on the meditation, but doing it again. Exercise needs to become more the routine again than the exception. Pretty spooky that I could check off almost all the symptoms for SAD above. Grey is definitely not a favorite color. Clammy definitely not a favorite temperature. Thanks for posting.

  • It interesting because I grew up in South Carolina and have spent many years living in Miami, FL. It’s summer that seems to be my nemesis. I want to eat more, I get chronically dehydrated, am more tired…The humidity and 100+ degrees?!?! Are there depressive symptoms or studies of the effects of weather on mood for other seasons than winter? I’ve never heard of such a thing, so am curious. There must be some sort of disorder for us tropical folk!

  • Cate Montana

    I love the winter. I love snow and because I run on the hot side the cold doesn’t bother me terribly… BUT when there is no snow the grey days really do take their toll. I definitely slack on the exercise and feel the urge to hybernate bigtime. I’ll be setting those intentions immediately! I’m curious about trying one of those sunlight mimicking lamps as well.
    Thanks for the tips!

  • terri cole

    Sounds great Cate! Gaiam sells a good one for about $100 ;)

  • terri cole

    Yes moving your body and getting the endorphins flowing can really take the edge off of the grey mood. Maybe you need a winter vacation someplace with lots of sun to break up the long winter (me too for that matter!) Thank you for your comment <3

  • terri cole


    Thank you for your comment and yes indeed there are many studies that show what is known as Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder sometimes referred to as Summer Mania. The symptoms are similar to SAD, just brought on by too much sun rather than lack of sun. When I moved to LA years ago the incessant ‘sunny’ weather depressed me. I was supposed to stay for two years and left after less than 6 months to come back to NYC and really my main reason for leaving was too much sun (which is not what I told my boss at the time!) Good luck!

  • Oh, this so is me. I hate being cold to the point where a move out west crosses my mind about every day in winter. I have found meditation really helps, especially when I focus on visualizing being in a warmer, more comfortable environment. I’ve used your ‘Meditation Vacation’ track to plant myself somewhere other than cold, slushy, dirty New York and I can feel the warm effects buzzing with me the rest of the day. But I should definitely set an intention to work out regularly too. That would definitely help!

  • Christine Gutierrez

    I for sure have felt this way, with the weather. I am very connected to the seasons and very empathetic. I feel the two go hand in hand. Being sensitive to changes in weather and being sensitive to the emotions of others. I am noticing how to protect myself better and prepare for these changes- to act in the name of PREVENTION.

    Loved this piece. thank you terri cole


  • terri cole

    You are so welcome Christine! Love your advice. Prevention is where it’s at!! xo

  • terri cole

    So glad the meditation track transports you to to sunny shores. Yes moving your butt will get your circulation moving and keep you warmer ;)

  • Lene230

    Great advice. I have also found the my attitude has changed after upgrading my winter gear. My big fluffy coat keeps me warm, much happier and willing to spend time outside on those chilly winter days.

  • Lene230

    Great advice. I have also found the my attitude has changed after upgrading my winter gear. My big fluffy coat keeps me warm, much happier and willing to spend time outside on those chilly winter days.