As the sun sets as early as 6:00 pm, many individuals experience a sense of time stolen from their day. Productivity wanes and peppiness diminishes. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a prevalent reality. The Mayo Clinic defines SAD as a form of depression linked to seasonal shifts, typically starting in late fall and persisting through winter. Even if you’re not officially diagnosed with SAD, it’s normal to feel reduced energy and negative mood changes due to the brevity of winter days. With the sun’s duration beyond our control, how can one brighten the winter blues?

Maximize Exposure to Light

Biological factors contribute to seasonal depression. Our bodies respond to sunlight cues. When daylight fades early, our circadian rhythms are disrupted, leaving us disoriented. Thus, it’s crucial to capitalize on available sunlight. Open blinds upon waking and flood your living or working space with natural light. You’ll find that this enhances your mood, though it shouldn’t replace actual outdoor time.

If time permits, take long walks before sunset. Since many people work throughout daylight hours and frigid weather poses a challenge, sunlit outdoor time may not be viable for everyone. An alternative is artificial “sunbox” lights, featuring specialized fluorescent tubes mirroring sunlight. Explore well-regarded sunbox light options here.

Craft a Winter Routine

The scarcity of winter sunlight can disrupt circadian rhythms, emphasizing the need to establish rhythm in other aspects of life. Maintain a consistent routine. Whenever possible, emulate a summer routine. Don’t let darkness discourage social activities or exercise. If evening runs or walks are preferred but dark conditions deter you, consider a local track or treadmill with TV entertainment. While treadmills may seem monotonous, watching favorite shows can help. Should a treadmill be unavailable and your gym lacks TVs, a tablet or phone suffices.

If warmer weather normally prompts outdoor social engagements, seek wintertime alternatives. It’s easy to isolate oneself after dark, but social interactions significantly impact mental health. Discover new indoor activities with friends. Recreation centers extend beyond walking tracks—try ice skating, rock climbing, or racquetball.

Even if leisure pursuits lean towards reading, writing, or drawing, home confinement isn’t necessary. Visit the local library or seek live drawing/painting groups on social media. (Social platforms are invaluable for locating like-minded hobbyists.) In essence, numerous recreational and social options exist post-sunset. Don’t surrender to a dull and solitary winter.

Embrace Mindfulness and Meditation

Another approach is to combat gloom through meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness entails heightened awareness of surroundings, redirecting focus from future worries to your present moment. It involves breathing exercises to induce relaxation. The four core steps to mindful meditation involve attentiveness, embracing the moment, self-acceptance, and concentrating on breathing.

Stay positive—daylight savings time will return sooner than you think!

How do you personally combat the winter blues? Share your thoughts in the comments.


“Beating Winter’s Woes”

“Mindfulness Exercises”
Mayo Clinic

“Mindfulness Holds Promise for Treating Depression”
American Psychological Association

“Seasonal Affective Disorder”
Mayo Clinic

“Tips for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder”
Vail Health Foundation