Surviving Winter: How to Beat the Winter Blues. Hutton Health

Surviving Winter: How to Beat the Winter Blues

12th December 2023

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With night’s drawing in and temperatures dropping, it is common to feel the winter blues setting in.  Winter can be a tough season to trudge through.

I have more ‘meh’ days where I lack motivation and feel more lethargic in the winter, and I know that I need to have strategies to overcome the dread of the short days and cold temperatures.

Spring and summer are my favourite seasons, and the leaves changing or fallen from the trees are reminders that these seasons are months away. Finding ways to overcome the winter blues has been key to maintaining good mental health through the season.

People experience the ‘winter blues’ for a number of reasons

People experience the ‘winter blues’ for a number of reasons

Reduced sunlight

During the winter months, there is less natural sunlight, and the days are shorter.

This can disrupt our circadian rhythms and affect our body's production of melatonin and serotonin, which regulate mood and sleep.

UV lamps work by simulating natural sunlight, which can help regulate the body's internal clock and improve mood.


Melatonin Imbalance

Reduced sunlight exposure can lead to an overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. An excess of melatonin can cause feelings of fatigue and depression.

Serotonin Levels

Reduced sunlight can also lead to lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. Low serotonin levels are linked to feelings of depression and lethargy.


Disrupted Circadian Rhythms

The change in daylight hours can disrupt our internal body clock, leading to sleep disturbances and mood changes.

With the shorter daylight hours and longer nights in winter, many people experience a natural shift in their sleep patterns. It is common to find it more challenging to wake up in the morning and have a tendency to feel sleepier during the day.


Lack of Physical Activity

During the winter, people may be less active due to cold weather and reduced outdoor activities. Physical inactivity can contribute to feelings of lethargy and depression.

I much prefer to exercise in the daylight, so getting out to workout during the dark winter mornings or evenings requires more motivation for me.


Social Isolation

Cold weather and fewer outdoor activities can lead to social isolation and reduced social interactions, which can contribute to feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Having meaningful connections with people has a strong correlation with positive wellbeing, so feeling isolated can be a source of the winter blues setting in.


Dietary Changes

Many people change their eating habits during the winter, consuming more comfort foods and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. Poor nutrition can affect mood and energy levels.

In the winter, I often crave warm meals rather than fresh, raw ingredients and salads that are my staple through the warmer months.


Genetic Predisposition

Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it tends to run in families.

10 strategies to Overcome the Winter Blues

10 strategies to Overcome the Winter Blues



Light Therapy:

Using light therapy lamps to simulate natural daylight and regulate the circadian rhythm.  UV lamps emit bright, full-spectrum light that mimics natural sunlight. Exposure to this light can stimulate the photoreceptors in the eyes, sending signals to the brain that regulate the production of melatonin and serotonin, two key hormones that affect mood and sleep.

This is a great light therapy lamp to try! 


Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule:

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule and daily routine can help stabilise the circadian rhythm.  Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekend, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.   A structured routine can provide a sense of stability and purpose.

Read quick tips for quality sleep!


Prioritise Self Care and Rest:

Winter is a great time to do the things that make you feel great and create a self-care practice that promotes optimal health, confidence and happiness.  Rest is essential for optimal health. Find out 10 reasons why we need to prioritise our rest and different types of rest in this previous blog.  Practice mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or relaxation techniques to reduce stress and anxiety.


Engage in Hobbies:

Pursue indoor hobbies and activities that you enjoy, such as reading, painting, cooking, or playing musical instruments.  Winter is my time for reading, puzzles and games with friends and family.

Colouring patterns is a great stress relieving hobby. I love this colouring book for quiet breaks!


Stay Social:

Even if it's challenging to meet in person, stay connected with friends and family through virtual gatherings, phone calls, or video chats.  Connecting with others can significantly improve wellbeing and can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation that are common during the winter months.


Limit Screen Time: 

Spending less time attached to a screen can inspire you to spend more time with friends and family or engage in other activities which are beneficial for your wellbeing.  I know how tempting cosying up under a blanket on the sofa to binge watch Netflix can be in the winter, but often this is attached to a habit of mindless snacking and hours of no movement or social interaction.

Set Goals:

Establish achievable goals and projects to work on during the winter. A sense of accomplishment can boost your mood and give you purpose and motivation.  Shorter term goals can help keep you on track and give you reason to celebrate your progress on your journey.  Download Hutton Health ’s free GOAL SETTING WORKBOOK

Schedule Outdoor Time:

Make an effort to spend time outdoors during daylight hours, even on cold days. Here are 7 reasons to spend more time outside!  A brisk walk outside can be invigorating and can reset your mood, focus and productivity for the remainder of the day. Walking is a great way to increase your health and fitness through the winter as well!  I know that going out in the cold can be the LAST thing that you feel like doing, but having appropriate clothing to keep you warm and dry can help make it easier to get outside.



Eat a Balanced Diet:

Eating a balanced diet with adequate nutrients can support overall wellbeing.  Consume a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Nutrient-rich foods can support your overall wellbeing and health.

Planning your day and meals in advance can help keep you focused on healthy choices when your motivation gets low, or you start to feel tired. A plan can help you avoid the sofa and Netflix binge that can be tempting if you don’t have a focus or list of priorities to get through.  Download Hutton Health's free Meal Planner to help you plan your meals and snacks in advance.


Exercise Regularly:

Engaging in regular physical activity, even indoors, can help maintain energy levels and improve mood.  Moving your body and exercising through the winter can help boost endorphins (feel good hormones!) and energy while reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.  You do not need to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to exercise and enjoy moving your body. Hutton Health offers flexible online coaching, delivering programmes through a bespoke app that can be accessed anytime, anywhere in the world.

Remember that everyone's experience with the winter blues is unique, so it's essential to find the strategies and a winter survival techniques that work best for you.

Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you're struggling with persistent symptoms of the winter blues or if you suspect you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

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