14 Unexpected Things That Really Help People Who Get Depressed In The Winter

Sure, everybody hates winter to some extent. It’s a pain in the ass and everyone is cold and it feels like it’s permanently dark. But for some people, the short days and bitter cold can actually have a severe effect on their mood, even leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that is caused by the changes in seasons (read: winter). Dealing with SAD or any kind of winter depression can be exhausting and difficult, and unfortunately there’s not one specific cure. But here are 14 things you CAN do to make this winter a little easier on yourself.
Flickr / bpc009
Flickr / bpc009

1. Go outside and walk, even if it’s cold. During the winter, you’re inside a lot more than you realize. And while sometimes it can feel cozy and comfortable, you’re going to get cabin fever at some point. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, it’s important for you to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and remember that life is still going on around you, even when it sometimes feels like everything is dead.

2. Force yourself to socialize. When it’s freezing outside and dark before five o’clock, my thoughts when it comes to leaving my apartment are as follows: bye. But sometimes, you just have to make yourself do it. If jeans are just asking too much of you, put on leggings or sweatpants. Go to the bar or the restaurant or your friend’s apartment. Socialize with people. Remind yourself that everyone else hates winter too. Connect with another human being. Even if you don’t have fun going out that night, it at least gives you a few hours out of the house and gives you and Netflix a chance to miss each other.

3. Put on “Fireplace For Your Home” on Netflix. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. And yes, it’s life-changing. It’s literally an hour-long episode of a fire that crackles and makes noises and ALMOST SEEMS REAL. My roommate discovered it last week, and it is now the number one reason why I love her (yeah, she’s loyal, she’s a great friend, she’s sweet, blah blah blah. But most importantly, she discovered fire. Thank you, Rachel. I will love you forever.)

4. Bake something. Even if you suck at it, everybody is capable of adding eggs and water to cake mix and then putting it in the oven. The smell of something baking will stimulate your senses and remind you that there are always things to look forward to. Plus, at the end of this fun little adventure, you can reward yourself with a slice of an entire cake.

5. Talk to a therapist. No jokes with this one, I’m serious. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again, when I have $150 to spare. If you can’t afford a therapist right now, talk to your mom.

6. …actually, talk to your mom either way. But remember, moms have that power of getting on the phone with you and saying “What’s wrong, honey?” after you merely said “Hey, Mom.” Which makes you immediately start crying. That’s okay. Get out ALL OF THE FEELINGS.

7. Exercise. I hate saying this one, because my version of “exercising” is just any moment in time where I’m not sitting down. But honestly, it does help. As we all learned from Elle Woods, exercising gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. We all need a little boost sometimes, and getting your heart rate up will do the trick. If you can afford it, join a gym. If you can’t, do planks in your apartment. I’m currently at a personal record of planking for eight seconds before my whole body starts shaking. #progress

8. Follow inspirational accounts on Instagram. I literally feel like the biggest joke for saying this, but it honestly helps me. I’m the furthest thing from a mushy or cheesy type of person (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and these types of accounts still help me, regardless. It’s nice to scroll through your newsfeed full of skinny arms and coffee cups and see an occasional text-over-image post that says something encouraging or inspirational. Yes, it’s a little corny and over-the-top, but you’d be surprised how much of a positive impact it can be on you to read these types of things every day.

9. Follow funny accounts on Instagram. As important as it is to feel comforted and inspired, it’s also important to laugh. Laughter is surprisingly effective in relieving the tension you feel in your chest from depression or anxiety, even if it’s just the smallest amount of relief. My suggestions are @thefatjewish, @fuckjerry, and @betches, but they can sometimes be offensive and sarcastic, so it’s really whatever floats your boat.

10. Wear slippers. As often as you can. The minute you get in the house. Let those feathery bundles of goodness envelop your feet and provide you with a brief, ten-second period where you forget that everything is cold and everybody’s cranky.

11. Avoid caffeine. This one isn’t for everyone. I know most people will not function without coffee in the morning. But if you don’t need that second or third cup of coffee later in the day, or that soda, I’d say avoid it. Personally, when I have too much caffeine, I feel jittery and panicky and anxious. Again, not everyone has the same reaction, but if you react negatively to caffeine, give yourself a break for a little while.

12. Watch your favorite movies or television shows, over and over and over. You don’t even have to pay that much attention. You can even do something else while you have the show playing in the background. It’s just comforting to have that familiarity around you. Watching something where you know what is going to happen and you know how it is going to end can be extremely relaxing.

13. Buy a flickering candle. It can really help make more of a cozy atmosphere in your home, and the more light you have, the better. Flickering candles also provide a nice crackling background noise that’s calming and relaxing.

14. Order stuff on Amazon Prime. Nothing beats the magic of buying something online and seeing it appear on your doorstep two days later, with free shipping. It’s like a never-ending Christmas, except you’re buying all of your own presents. Maybe you can’t look forward to going outside yet, but you can look forward to opening your door and receiving that book you just ordered. If you don’t have Prime, don’t worry, somebody you know does. I use my parents’ account, and sure, I’ve had some strange moments. Like when I had to explain to my dad why I ordered a penguin onesie, but it was worth it. Because the onesie arrived at my doorstep within two days and I got to wear it to a winter-themed drinking festival. Everybody wins. TC mark

Kim Quindlen

I'm a staff writer for Thought Catalog. I like comedy and improv. I live in Chicago. My Uber rating is just okay.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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