Saturday, January 6, 2018

5 Easy but Effective Winter Blues Survival Tips

Ugh. January. Just the name of the month sends a shiver up my spine.

After the warmth of the holidays is over, many of us are left with a solid case of the Januarys, also known as the Winter Blues.  I may call this funk the Januarys but it somehow usually manages to persist until at least March.  I often find myself in a depressive state, with high anxiety and low energy.  It is quite miserable.

I've found some helpful ways to get myself through the Iowa-in-winter blues(or anywhere in the winter blues, I just happen to live in Iowa) and I'll share them below. As always, please talk to your own medical professional before starting any new supplements or routines that may impact your health. We are each different and what works for one may not work for another.

1. Light Therapy Lamps

These lamps are often used to treat SAD(Seasonal Affective Disorder) but many that are not diagnosed with SAD find that these lamps also work for them. Your insurance or medical flex plan may cover the cost of this if your doctor prescribes it. I found one that works for me for less than $50, so I didn't personally attempt to have mine covered but it was on the recommendation of my doctor that I bought one for my daily routine.

Phototherapy(also called helioptherapy) helps us to get through the times when we are not taking in enough natural sunlight to support our circadian rhythms. I have mine in my bathroom and turn it on while I get ready in the morning. It makes a subtle but notable difference in my mood and energy and I also notice that I sleep better when I use it daily. It only took about three mornings of use before I personally felt a change in my mood, but all bodies are different. Some people only use these during the cold weather months, but others use them year round(depending on the amount of your outdoor activity and where you live in the world).

The model that I own (by NatureBright) is no longer available but here is a link to the one that many of my friends use. Look around and find which model would be best for you!


2. Epsom Salt Baths

If you are a shower lover instead of a bath adorer like myself, you may be groaning right now. I found epsom salt baths several years ago when it was suggested by my doctor as a way to decrease my anxiety and chronic muscle pain via the magnesium that is absorbed transdermally through the epsom salt baths(I also take an oral magnesium supplement at bedtime to help me sleep-- please speak to your medical practitioner if you think this might be helpful for you!).

You can find epsom salts at nearly any grocer, pharmacy or health food stores. No need to buy the expensive kinds that are scented or have additives, the generic version works just fine! I buy the large bags personally as I take 3 epsom salt baths weekly.

Simply fill your bath with very warm/hot water and add a minimum of 2 cups of epsom salts, then soak for a minimum of 20 minutes. I personally also love to add essential oils that calm me(add them to the salts instead of directly into the bath so that they don't float on the surface) and read a good book whilst I soak. These baths have become some of my favorite times of the week! It warms my body and my soul.

3. Vitamin D3 Supplementation

Yet, again I want to remind you to speak to your health professional before adding a new supplement or deciding on a dose. I personally take vitamin D3 year round but do increase my dosage during the winter months. We receive much of the Vitamin D that we need through the sun, so it makes sense that we may not get all that we need in the winter months. I find that my overall health and mental well-being is buoyed when my Vitamin D levels are normal(if you want your level tested, ask your doctor or NP).

You can also increase your levels through diet by increasing your consumption of fatty fishes such as wild salmon, vitamin d fortified dairy and mushrooms, among other foods.

I personally use the Vitamin D drops instead of the pills, but there are many ways that you can build up your D3 level.


4. Hygge

You've probably heard this word lately. It's a bit of a buzzword right now.

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.

What hygge means to me is that it is important to make my home and circumstances cozy and comfortable in order to weather the cold weather months which can be emotionally challenging for me. I'm a voracious reader and choose to stock up on good books leading up to the winter. I snuggle into my favorite chair, snuggled with one of my kids and sip on yummy tea or wine while reading. It makes the passage of the dreary months of winter so very much more palatable.

I also stock up on fuzzy socks, cozy blankets, yummy scented candles and good movies. Theres no wrong way to embrace the Danish tradition of Hygge.

5. Get Outside

Yep, this one can be a bit painful in the dead of the Iowa winter. However, I do find that getting outside is a great boost to my mental health, even if it is simply for a few minutes. It's free and easy. Even in subzero temps, I can certainly manage 5-10 minutes if I'm bundled up. A bonus from weathering the winter cold is the cozy feeling that I get when I am back inside, with a cup of hot cocoa warming up my hands.

My middle daughter, who needs no reminding to get outside in the winter!

These five tips have been incredibly helpful to me with dealing with my often severe winter blues, but I am always looking for more tips. What helps you make it through the winter months?

This post contains affiliate links which give me a very small amount of money if you purchase via the link. Please see my post here for further information. 


  1. These are great and very do-able tips to get through the dark days of winter.
    Carol Cassara

  2. Light up the fire place. Make some homemade apple cider so the whole house smells wonderful and you have something warm to sip in front of the fire place. Maybe add couple dash of Jack Daniels (or whatever liqueur of choice). :)

  3. I've been thinking about getting a happy light for several years now. January (and February and March...) can be so dull in Michigan with hardly any sun.

  4. I don't get depressed until after the Super Bowl since weekly doses of football games seem to keep me going. But my go-to items on your list are #4 and #5. They definitely make my winter much better. I do enjoy having a lot of lights on but don't need the special lamps. Maybe the Olympics can help get me through February. :)

  5. I typically keep the Christmas decorations, especially lights and the tree, out and on for as long as reasonably possible. It really helps make it cozy and inviting.