As the days get shorter and the supply of warm sunshine diminishes, it may seem that life is darker and less hopeful. If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that affects about 10 million people in the United States; many of these people experience symptoms significant enough to really affect their quality of life. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to improve your winter days.

1. Schedule Time to Exercise

Physical activity is one of the least used methods of managing depression and one of the most effective. Just a few minutes of exercise a day can boost your mood, reduce stress, improve your ability to cope with stress, improve how you feel about yourself, increase your level of energy, decrease general symptoms of depression, and improve your feelings of motivation. It doesn’t take much; just ten minutes of walking provides positive results. Consistently exercising for 30 minutes a few times a week delivers long-term benefits and keeping it up for ten weeks or more provides the best results.

2. Spend Time With Friends

It’s easy to seek isolation and withdraw from friends and family when you’re feeling down, but your mood and overall well-being will improve when you make the effort to associate with others. Be careful to plan something fun and avoid talking each other further into depression. If your friends have children for you to interact with, the results are that much better. Socializing with positive friends is a great way to help the entire family feel relief from the doldrums of cold weather.

3. Get a Dose of Sunlight

Seasonal Affective Disorder is the result of decreased amounts of sunlight, so naturally, you’ll feel better if you can up those levels. Wrap up in sweaters or a fluffy coat and get outside for 30 minutes as soon after the sun comes up as you can. If you can’t get some morning sunlight, invest in a “sun box,” a dawn simulator slash alarm clock or a specialized light therapy box that offers the same physical benefits you can get from actual sunlight. However, the more you can get out into nature, the better off you’ll feel.

4. Let Your Creative Juices Flow

Sit down and write out your feelings, thoughts, and concerns for about 20 minutes in a journal. Pull out an assortment of paints or complete a craft you’ve had pinned to your board for a while. Engaging in creative activities triggers positive connections in your brain. You could bake up a family treat or try out a new recipe. Cooking is a great way to share a gift with a friend who may also feel down and can fill your home with delicious aromas that could also lift your mood.

5. Talk to a Professional

Your family doctor or a mental health professional can help you determine the extent of your depression and recommend a course of treatment, such as the use of the light therapy box or antidepressants. You can also research other treatment methods using online resources, such as the informative well-being website:

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that affects many people every winter. As soon as you recognize symptoms, such as a lack of energy or moodiness you can’t shake, try out these tips. You may find that it’s possible to beat off the seasonal blahs this year.