9 proven ways to break the winter blues

by | Jan 28, 2014 | Energy

Takeaway: Eight proven ways to beat the winter blues: take a vitamin D supplement every day, exercise, eat much better, sleep more, go for a walk outside (even when it’s cold out), stay away from stress relief strategies that don’t work, effort to take it easy on yourself, meditate, and adopt habits that lead to more happiness.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 53s.

Red leaf on snow

Every year around the middle of January the same thing happens to me: my energy levels dip, my emotions fluctuate way more than they usually do, and I start to drag my feet and get a lot less done.

If you suffer from a case of the “winter blues” too (it also goes by the more-scientific name, Seasonal Affect Syndrome), all is not lost. Here are eight proven ways to break out of your slump to be productive when you don’t want to go outside. I can speak from personal experience that every single thing on this list works wonders to boost your mood and energy levels in the dead of winter (particularly when it’s -40 freaking degrees out).

Take vitamin D, every day

There are two ways your body gets vitamin D: through direct sunlight, and through vitamin D supplements. If you live in a cold climate, chances are you stay in a lot more during the winter, and when you do go outside, you bundle up, exposing less of your skin to direct sunlight.

Different organizations recommend that you take different amounts of vitamin D, but most organizations recommend that you should take about 1,000 IU a day.1 I’m definitely not a doctor, but I take 2,000 IU a day.


Even when you work out for just 20-30 minutes, you will feel energized for hours after you exercise. Exercise will make you feel better about yourself, boost your energy and mood, help your body detoxify waste products, increase blood flow, increase your immunity, and helps stave off stress, anxiety, and depression.2

I can’t think of a better time of year to hit the gym.

Man snowboarding

Eat more complex carbohydrates, and drink more water

Personally, nothing affects my energy levels more than what I eat. Avoid refined and sugary foods, and give your body the energy and nutrients it needs by drinking lots of water, and eating plenty of complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, whole wheats, vegetables, and fruits.

Food can have a profound affect on your mood and energy levels, so it’s important you provide your body with high-octane fuel to get through the winter.

Sleep more

Like exercise and eating well, how much sleep you get can have a profound affect on how much energy you have. It’s easy to throw sleep out the window when you have a lot going on, but getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most beneficial activities you can do to boost your mood and energy levels in the winter. Plus, unlike a few of the other items on this list, it doesn’t take much effort to get an extra hour or two of sleep every night if you’re deficient.

Go for a walk outside, even if it’s disgustingly cold out

As I write this, it’s -35ºC (-31ºF) outside. (You know it’s cold outside when the temperature is about the same in celsius and fahrenheit.)

Even thought taking a long walk outside was the last thing I wanted to do this afternoon, I forced myself away from the coziness of my office (as well as the tea station I conveniently keep next to my desk), and pushed myself to walk for 15 minutes to the Starbucks down the street.

I’m glad I did. After my walk, I feel more energized, motivated, and driven, and though 15 minutes of sunlight might not sound like a lot, it made a world of difference.

Beautiful winter scene

Stay away from stress-relief strategies that don’t work

When you’re stressed out, your mind has been shown to crave quick fixes, like the treat table across the hall, the temptation to go shopping after work. But while quick fixes may be entertaining in the moment, they don’t actually reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body.

The American Psychological Association has done extensive research to identify the ways people deal with stress, and they named the least effective ways people deal with stress: gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV and movies for more than two hours.3

To avoid these traps, invest in stress-relief strategies that actually work, like exercising, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends and family, getting a massage, going for a nature walk, meditating, spending time on a creative hobby, and praying.

Take it easy on yourself

I’ll keep hammering at this nail until every single person that reads AYOP hears it: being productive is absolutely pointless and completely unrewarding if you don’t take it easy on yourself in the process.

Listen to your body when it tells you that it has little energy. Be mindful of your emotions if you find you get more depressed during the wintertime. Take more breaks if you’re feeling low on energy. Invest in stress-relief strategies that actually work.

When you take the time to listen to your mind and body, and take it easy on yourself when you’re trying to be productive, you’re going to accomplish a lot more at the end of the day.


The purpose of meditation is to step back from your thoughts and emotions to gain perspective on your life. I can’t think of a better time to step back from your emotions than when they’re so in flux in the wintertime. Meditation may be the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed and low in energy, but I promise that minute-for-minute, nothing will provide you with a greater return on your time.

NotepadAdopt habits that lead to more happiness

Happy people are way more productive than unhappy people–31% more productive according to one study. Meditation and exercise are both terrific habits to adopt that lead to more happiness, but three other habits that have been proven to lead to more happiness are:

  • Recalling three things you’re grateful for
  • Journaling one great experience you had
  • Performing a random act of kindness

I’ve adopted all three (though I exercise and meditate more often), and they’re all killer strategies to boosting your mood and energy levels when the winter blues set in!

Read leaf on snow source.

  1. Source: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/ 

  2. Source: http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/exercise/tips/exercise-to-beat-winter-blues.htm 

  3. Source: https://chrisbailey.com/9-stress-relief-strategies-that-actually-work/ 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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