Winter is hurtling toward Northeast Ohio, and with it comes seasonal favorites like hot chocolate, sledding adventures and peppermint-flavored everything. Unfortunately, winter can also bring bitterly cold weather and a serious lack of daylight—both of which can leave people feeling low.

Mary Halm

If you find yourself feeling down already, you’re not alone. Seasonal affective disorder, often known as the “winter blues,” is a common occurrence many people experience around this time of year—but there are ways to combat it. To find out how, The Daily spoke with Mary Halm, health and well-being outreach manager at University Health and Counseling Services

Read on to learn five ways Halm says you can fight the winter blues. 

1. Find time for exercise.

Exercising two to three times a week can help reduce feelings of anger, stress and depression. It is said that aerobic exercise (swimming, cycling, walking, etc.) releases endorphins, also known as “feel good” chemicals. Exercising in the morning increases your energy and productivity throughout the day, allowing you to be more engaged with the people around you. 

2. Take up a new hobby.

Taking up a new hobby can bring a new light into your life. It is something you can look forward to after a long day of work, or class. Whether your hobby is crafting, reading, cooking, or something else, you’ll find satisfaction from seeing it through from start to finish. A new hobby can help you find joy in spending time alone, or connect with others who have the same interest.

3. Spend time with friends and family. 

Often, when it is gray and cold out, we want to stay inside where it’s warm. But, this can be isolating if you live alone or don’t enter a common area with your house/roommates. Leaving your space to be with friends and family is important; or bringing them into your space for a social hour will help to reduce that sense of feeling alone. It is important to have designated times to be with friends and family, weekly dinners, regular FaceTime calls, whatever you need to do to keep in touch with your support circle.

4. Be out when the sun is out.

If the sun is out, try to get outside and enjoy it for at least 15 minutes. When the sun isn’t out, consider investing in a “happy light,” or a sun lamp. A sun lamp, commonly referred to as a SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lamp, is a device that mimics natural outdoor light by emitting UVB light. This is believed to have a positive impact on your serotonin and melatonin production, the hormones that regulate your sleep cycle. (Bonus tip: Getting a full night’s sleep helps pull you out of the winter blues as well. With a well-rested mind and body, you’re able to be more productive throughout the day). 

5. Maintain a healthy diet.

Maintain a healthy diet, but don’t restrict yourself from food you enjoy. Make sure you are regularly incorporating foods that are good for you and your body. Remember that everyone’s body and dietary needs are different. Find a system that is best fit for you and makes you feel good. Foods to consider adding to your diet to help boost your mood: fatty fish (high in omega-3), dark chocolate (sugar and caffeine), fermented foods (probiotics), bananas (high in vitamin B6), oats (fibers), berries (antioxidants), and nuts and seeds (high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats and fibers). 

Learn more about resources available to Case Western Reserve University students through University Health and Counseling Services; and services available to faculty and staff through IMPACT Solutions