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A drawing of a shivering child in a snowstorm with a snowma
A cold kid and a snowman

It’s the winter solstice! That means you’ve made it to the shortest day of the year, but for some reason, you still feel terrible. Ever wonder why? You could be one of thousands of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues. If you have SAD, your mood likely deteriorates in the winter. Some of the symptoms you might experience include fatigue, weight change, anxiety, and depression.

What can you do to fight the winter blues?

Although many of the treatment options available to address SAD should be prescribed and monitored by a mental health professional, there are some changes that you can try on your own.  One of the most effective ways to improve your mood is to exercise.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in your body, which can help energize you and improve your outlook on life.

What kind of exercise is best?

Try to find something that you enjoy so you will be more likely to stick with it.  While going to the gym or exercising outdoors are both great options, anything that gets you moving and off of your couch is helpful.  This includes daily activities, such as taking the dog for a walk and doing housework.

How much exercise is necessary to feel good?

Regular workouts are the best way to maximize the happiness effect.  Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise a day.  If this is too much, start off with what you can reasonably manage.  Even taking a walk for 10 minutes in the middle of the day can go a long way towards making you feel better.

These simple tips are a great start towards alleviating the winter blues, but if your symptoms persist or get worse, there is no substitute for contacting a mental health professional for more guidance and support.  Feel free to ask your PT what else you can do to stay active during the coldest and darkest winter months.