6 Simple Tips On Beating The Winter Blues This Season

When winter approaches, it brings cool, crisp weather and reduced daylight. Sometimes it also brings the winter blues. You wake up in the dark, come home from work in the dark and your exposure to natural sunlight reduces. All these things start to have an impact on the way you feel.

This affects many things - plants stop growing, we notice that the natural world becomes more dormant and everything is less active - people included. The winter blues can be challenging for many of us, especially those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you're starting to feel the effects of SAD, here's what you can do about it. 

What are the winter blues?

Known medically as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the winter blues are a type of depression that occurs cyclically, usually during the autumn and winter months when daylight hours are shorter. It is characterised by recurrent episodes of depressive symptoms that coincide with the changing seasons. 

What are the symptoms of the winter blues/seasonal affective disorder?

  • Hopeless and sad feelings
  • Excessive fatigue or a tendency to oversleep
  • Appetite changes - with a preference for carbohydrates and sweets 
  • Weight gain
  • Limbs feel heavy
  • Reduced energy
  • Decreased physical movement
  • Issues with concentrating and focus
  • Feeling irritable
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
  • Avoiding people and social situations
SAD sufferers are four times more likely to be women, with symptoms starting between 20-30 years of age. SAD also seems more prevalent for those suffering from other underlying mental health conditions.

The difference between seasonal affective disorder and depression is that SAD occurs in a seasonal pattern - mainly occurring in winter.

What causes the winter blues?

The winter blues can be attributed to the disruption of your circadian cycle during the winter season. Your body operates according to a natural circadian rhythm, which governs various physiological, mental, and behavioral changes over a 24-hour cycle. Essentially, it serves as your body clock, regulating vital functions.

You may have noticed how changing your body clock can directly affect how you feel. If you have ever worked shift work, had a baby or flown to the other side of the world, you will have noticed how it can make you feel very slow and tired. Things are just suddenly very hard.

The circadian rhythm affects our body’s ability to produce hormones, such as melatonin (which is the hormone that helps support sleep) and serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone, which also can affect your appetite and sleep). Researchers believe the lack of sunlight in winter impairs the hypothalamus’ ability to work efficiently, resulting in SAD symptoms.

🌿 Related: 8 Incredible Herbs To Help With Sleep

What can you do to help the winter blues?

1. Eat more plants

As with most health issues, eating a good diet with good fats, fibre, and nutrient-dense produce will help. However, eating lots of fresh salads in winter can be hard, especially in colder climates where fresh greens aren't seasonally available.

Winter is a great time to embrace warm, slow-cooked meals like casseroles, stews, curries and soups. These are all a delicious way to get the nutrients you need. You could consider adding a mushroom powder to your soups or slow-cooked meals to increase Vitamin D intake.

2. Vitamin D supplementation

In the summer months, you are exposed to vitamin D through the sun’s rays and the interaction it has with your skin - so you are able to make what you need (mostly).

However, in winter, without the sun, you do not naturally receive enough vitamin D to synthesise as you do in summer. Supplementing with a good quality vitamin D may help improve symptoms of the winter blues, low mood and immune challenges. 

You can also increase your intake of vitamin D rich foods such as;

  • Seafood
  • Fish such as tuna and salmon
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef liver 
  • Egg yolks

3. Light therapy for the winter blues

To help with SAD symptoms, some people use a lightbox (daily for 30 minutes), which exposes them to light each morning after waking. The bright light mimics daylight and can help adjust mood by increasing chemical releases in the brain. 

Another option is an alarm clock that simulates dawn by slowly increasing in light as a way to wake up.

Exposing yourself to natural light as soon as you wake up also helps with supporting your circadian rhythm - so pull the curtains or go outside as soon as you can - before looking at your phone!

4. Herbal support

St John's wort for the winter blues

St John's wort is one of the most researched herbs for depression and low mood and is the only herb with clinical research for SAD. The 4-week study utilised St John's wort extract alone (900mg) and St John's wort extract combined with light therapy. 

🌿RelatedHow You Can Use St John’s Wort For Depression

The study found that for both groups, there was a significant antidepressant action in SAD patients - with improvements in fatigue, mood, appetite, libido and sleep (Miller, 2005). They also noted that the inclusion of light therapy did not dramatically make a difference. So, for those who do not respond to light therapy or find it too hard to maintain, St John's wort is an effective treatment on its own.

Traditionally herbalists have thought of St John's wort of the plant that holds the 'sun and sunny feelings' as it flowers at the peak of summer and can help with mood. It has been traditionally recommended for mood support for those suffering from the winter blues.

🌿RelatedA Naturopath's Top 10 Tips For Taking St. John’s Wort

Please note that St John's wort at this dose will interact with long-term medications, so it's not recommended if you are taking prescription medication. 

Lemon balm for the winter blues

Lemon balm is a well-known nervine herb that helps supports the mood, reduce feelings of stress and support calm. It benefits your digestive system, indigestion, supports sleep and can help heart palpitations.

The combination of lemon balm and St John's wort is particularly effective as both herbs work synergistically together to help reduce symptoms of the winter blues. Another bonus of lemon balm is that you can feel the effects within an hour, so it can offer quick relief. 

We have formulated our Mood Boost to help support the winter blues, feelings of low mood and irritation. Our wild-crafted St John's wort and organic lemon balm are combined with hawthorn to support your whole nervous system.

🌿Related5 Ways To Harness The Health Benefits Of Hawthorn Berries


5. Exercise 

Movement is always a great way to boost your energy and mood naturally. Schedule a lunchtime walk to get outside into natural light instead of staying inside all day. Fresh air and movement can help reset your day - it doesn’t have to be for long. A quick walk around the block would be a great place to start.

6. Get help or talk to someone you trust

Sometimes it can feel like more than just the winter blues. If you are concerned or there is an acceleration in your symptoms, see your medical professional. 

Some people take antidepressants for the winter months to help them through - it is always important to check your options. 

Here is a link to a great resource/quiz that you can take to see if you need extra help.

Others also engage with CBT as a therapy to help, which can also be worth looking in to. It is a talking therapy that enables you to manage your problems by changing how you think and behave in areas in which you need help and support.

If you recognise any of the symptoms or suffer from the winter blues, it might be worth looking into proactively supporting yourself this winter season. It might help alleviate some of the things you dislike about winter and allow you to enjoy the cooler season a bit more.


Kennedy, D., Little, W., & Scholey, A. (2004). Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosomatic Medicine, 66(4), 607-13.

Kennedy, D., Wake, G., Savelev, S., Tildesley, N., Perry, E., Wesnes, K., & Scholey, A. (2003). Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology, 28(10),1871-81.

Martinez, B., Kasper, S., Ruhrmann. S., Moller, H.J. (1994). Hypericum in the treatment of seasonal affective disorders[Abstract]. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry & Neurology, 7 (1), S29–S33.

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression Research and Treatment, 178564.
Miller AL. Epidemiology, etiology, and natural treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Mar;10(1):5-13. PMID: 15771558

Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V.,…Buchwald-Werner, S. (2014). Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods. Nutrients, 6(11), 4805-21.

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