As the light wanes and the days become shorter, you may find yourself more sluggish, moody and withdrawn. It may be harder to wake up in the morning or difficult to concentrate as you go through your day. If so, you are not alone. Many people find themselves feeling down in the winter. But why?

It has been discovered that, for some people, the cause of this winter blues is the reduced exposure to sunlight that we get this time of year. And if you are already prone to depression, it can be exacerbated in winter. (Of course, there are other causes for winter depression, such as the financial and emotional stress that the holidays bring. But that is another topic deserving its own time.)

If your symptoms are mild, there are some simple daily acts you can do to help boost your mood:

Look for opportunities to be outside and get light exposure.

Sit outside at café’s and restaurants.
Pull a few weeds in the yard.

Walk around your neighborhood.

Find a protected sunny spot, bundle up and have a cup of tea or read a book.

If your work place permits it, arrange for a longer lunch break. Then eat outside and go for a walk.

Increase the light in your house and work place.

Open curtains.
Clear away window blocking plants and shrubs.

Look into Light Therapy.

Exercise. (I know, it’s hard to get yourself going when your feeling down, but it gets easier if you do it regularly.)

Try a 30 minute walk.
Dance around your house to some lively music.

Wash the car by hand.

Do housework at an aerobic pace.

Consciously look for the positive in your life.

Our thoughts affect our mood. So how about starting each day by writing 3 things on a Gratitude List. Keep a running journal or list of big and small things that you are grateful for. While this won’t cure chronic depression, it can be a good tool for shifting your mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is not a mental health diagnosis in its own right, rather it is a specifier for forms of depression. If your symptoms are more serious, consult a psychotherapist about other kinds of treatment including psychotherapy, light therapy, and/or medication.