Beating the Winter Blues

djadmin 06 Feb , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by W. Bulthuis MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker Portage Medical Family Health Team


  Beat the Winter Blues!

A Very Common Experience!
Research in Ontario suggests that 15 percent of the general population experience winter blues, which can include changes in appetite and lethargy. The winter blues differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects about two percent of the population and is a serious form of depression.(Jan 15, 2018 CMHA)

Recognize the signs

Winter Blues:
•Difficulty sleeping
•Feeling less social than usual
•Difficulty taking initiative

Seasonal Affective Disorder:
•Mood that is down or depressed most of the day, nearly every day
•Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
•Withdrawing and isolating yourself from friends and family
•Struggling to focus and perform at work or home
•Feeling constantly fatigued and lethargic
•Feeling hopeless about the future
•Having suicidal thoughts

…………….Talk to your doctor!
(from:  More than Just the Winter Blues – Rush University Medical Centre (          

Treatments that work:
•Sunlight – Get outside whenever the sun is out during the darker days
•Light Therapy – See further explanation below
•Exercise – Moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost
•Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – what is this? (Self-Help:  Mind over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky)
•Medication – Talk to your doctor

A Healthy Lifestyle:
•Sleep and wake time the same daily to regulate your circadian rhythms
•Structure eating – 3 meals a day around the same time every day
•Avoid the urge to overdo simple carbohydrates like starchy or sweet foods Eat a balanced diet of proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains
•Make and keep plans with friends and family to help you stay connected
•Take time for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy
(from:  More than Just the Winter Blues – Rush University Medical Centre (

Light Box:  The science of circadian rhythms shows how light activates a certain portion of our retina.  When blue light falls on receptors on the lower part of the retina, messages are transmitted to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus.  This process, which is separate from vision, energizes us.


*Online survey to determine your Circadian Rhythm Type – to identify what time of day light therapy is effective for you:

(from:  How Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Endanger your Health, Dr. Elizabeth Saenger)
Image from:  James Madison University News (Online:  Jan 25, 2017 )