12 Things That Actually Helped People With Winter DepressionHonestly, these are really good.
If you’ve ever dealt with winter depression, then you know the struggle from basically November to April is real. Feeling lonely, sad, tired, and unmotivated is the worst, whether you have depression that peaks this time of year or you’ve actually been diagnosed with seasonal depression—technically called major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR).
If you can relate, you’re not alone, friend. Toni-Marie L., 29, says her winter depression makes her feel like she can’t enjoy what she usually loves. “Going out and seeing friends and family becomes something I have to force myself to do, and I often cancel plans to stay home." Demetra, 31, says her body practically shuts down when the sun sets at 4 p.m., which makes her feel like she’s not good enough or productive enough.
That said, some people who deal with winter depression on the regular have gotten pretty good at managing their symptoms, getting a professional assist, and doing what they can to boost their mood when it’s possible.
To help you get through these colder, darker months, we spoke to folks like Toni-Marie and Demetra for their hacks and favorite products that get them through the thick of winter blues. While they might not all work for you, some could be a serious help. Also, it’s worth mentioning that checking in with a licensed mental health professional is the best way to find a treatment plan that’s specific to you.
1. A little bit of movement
“My psychiatrist diagnosed me with seasonal affective disorder [aka seasonal depression]. Moving my body is the main thing that helps me because it gets me out of my head and more in the moment and is a great practice in mindfulness. When I'm doing a challenging workout, I have no choice but to focus on the physical aspects, and I don't get caught up in the chaos of my mind. When I'm out walking or doing some yoga, I bring my focus to that and I'm not thinking about how overwhelmed I am, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.” —Toni-Marie L., 29
2. An A+ playlist
“My major depression gets worse when it gets darker earlier. I can feel very numb, like I just don’t care at all, which is why it’s good for me to have things that I love. Music is one of those things for me—it’s my life! It gets me up and moving when I have little energy. Music makes me feel good and confident, and I get in the zone with songs from Britney Spears or Bebe Rexha.” —Jackie W., 41
3. Curated cozy corners
“Creating a ‘cozy corner’ has helped me when the winter blues creep in because it gives me a sense of peace and comfort. I can’t control the weather or how dark it gets, but I can make sure I have a space that feels like summer, even in the middle of December. I noticed I have to lean into the things that make me feel good, that nourish my mind and soul. So, my cozy corner must-haves are a sun lamp, twinkle lights, candles, my journal, poetry books, and essential oils for aromatherapy. A heated blanket is a must for cold nights! Also, pictures of family, friends, and Taylor Swift—I surround myself with things that bring me joy. We sometimes underestimate the power of our space and how healing it can be.” —Demetra, 31
4. Adulting shortcuts
“I have clinical depression that gets worse in the winter and summer months. Each day feels like the biggest chore to get through and everything feels numb. Having paper plates on hand is super helpful. It’s already hard enough to get myself to eat, so I might as well eliminate having to do dishes once I’m done. The last thing I want to do during a depressive episode is clean a sink full of plates!” —Rachel P., 26
5. Comfort shows
“My favorite movies and comfort TV shows make me feel safe. They take me to another zone where I can tune out for a bit. My husband and I love Friends and The Big Bang Theory, and I personally love Pretty Little Liars and The Voice. As for movies, my faves are Save the Last Dance and Honey.” —Jackie W., 41
“I noticed that my depression gets a lot worse at the start of a year around January or February. It's like an uphill battle with my own mind at a time where everyone else appears to be really focused and motivated. Going on walks outside helps me stay present and not feel guilty about rotting in bed all day. It's also an easy and free way to get some endorphins and exercise, which always makes me feel a bit better. Listening to fiction and non-fiction audiobooks on those walks encourages me to keep going so I can hear what happens in the story.” —Cara R., 32
7. Vitamin D
“I started to track my emotions during the seasons and noticed, especially going into winter, how different emotionally and mentally I felt. My vitamin D levels get really low, so I always take vitamin D in the winter because of the lack of sun. Keeping sure that is in check has been a game-changer for me.” —Demetra, 31
[Editor’s note: The efficacy of vitamin D supplements for the treatment of seasonal depression symptoms is mixed, with “some studies indicating that it is as effective as light therapy and other studies finding no effect,” according to The National Institute of Mental Health.]
8. Sunlight lamps
“I wake up to a sunlight lamp every morning. This one, which has never failed me in four years, helps when I feel like I've been going to and from work in total darkness. It emulates sunlight by slowly getting brighter throughout the a.m., and it feels like I'm actually waking up to sunlight even if it's gray outside. It's a calming light as well, so I don't just use it in the mornings. I use it to read before bed too.” —Toni-Marie L., 29
9. Cozy hobbies
“I've noticed a persistent feeling of low energy, a lack of motivation, and an overall sense of sadness in the winter, and the process of cooking has really helped. For example, taking a simple ingredient like an onion and turning it into something like French onion soup is just amazing to me. In the end, you create something you love—and that, plus cooking with others, helps me deal with my depression. I’m particularly passionate about something I started last year, where I cook with friends while we talk about different topics like culture, the culinary arts, and mental health. I think this is the best thing that keeps me afloat in this life.” —Dasha, 25
10. A legit bedtime routine
“Having a set nighttime routine helps me. I always do skincare and brush my teeth. This seems simple and obvious, but with depression, something like brushing my teeth sometimes feels impossible. By making it a habit, I know that at 10:30 every night I’ll at least be doing one thing that’s good for me, even if I spent the whole day in bed. I also watch TikToks while I get ready because it's something I enjoy. After I finish all that, I read a chapter or two of a book. Sometimes I only read three pages, but for the sake of the routine, I do it. Knowing that, without a doubt, I will have this time at the end of each day actually helps me get through the rough moments. I can tell myself, OK, you can do this. In three hours you’ll be winding down and this will be behind you.” —Toni-Marie L., 29
11. Stretching it out
“I’ve learned that finding what gives me relief and makes me feel good helps with my seasonal depression. Yoga lets me be gentle with my emotions and mind and creates the movement my body craves. It helps bring me a sense of peace, and I can focus on my breath and my body versus on my anxiety or depression. Putting a small space heater in my room makes an incredible heated yoga space too, especially since my body feels colder and stiff in the winter months.” —Demetra, 31
12. Leaning on a support squad
“I go to therapy every month to help me stay on track, and I see a psychiatrist for medication that helps me consistently get out of bed and function. I also get support from my husband, who takes me to my appointments. I’m very grateful because he and my family are really understanding, they make me laugh, and they love me no matter what. All of this is important for me, especially around this time.” —Jackie W., 41
These quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.