Seasonal Blues: 7 Simple Ways to Shift Out of Them

09/03/2015 11:30 am ET Updated Sep 03, 2016

You're feeling a little blah, nothing seriously wrong, just a little less than enthusiastic about well, everything. A bit irritable and feeling less than 100 percent with no obvious cause, you wonder what's going on. Daylight is showing up later and fades away earlier. The evenings are cooler and the leaves are beginning to change color. School's started and the workload seems to be heavier too. Maybe you are experiencing SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When I lived in Boston, the seasonal changes were dramatic, from hot, early sunny mornings came the swift transition to having to switch on the lights and putting on a thick bathrobe when I got up. As I scrambled to get ready to drive to work in the dark, I often wondered what happened to summer when things all seemed easier, and there were more daylight hours to do things. With fewer natural light hours, it took more effort for me to get going in the morning and to focus on the demands of work and life. No wonder they call this seasonal transitional feeling SAD.

Now that we have a name for this seasonal transition, how do we shift out of it? If you are experiencing a serious case of SAD, I suggest you seek professional help. For most of us there are several simple things we can do to bring back that zip, inner peace and happiness. When our equanimity is restored, our creativity, energy, and productivity will hum along at a higher level.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. -- Albert Camus

Ready to try? There's nothing to lose except your blahs, insomnia and maybe even a little weight -- SAD gets some of us to eat excessively and unwisely.

  1. Go outside. Natural light, even when it is cloudy, helps reset our circadian rhythm and hormonal balances; both are factors in our moods. Take a walk at lunchtime; go outside in the morning to do a little stretching or exercising. Being outside will give you more exposure to natural light, even when it seems rather dark. This is also a metaphor for life -- there is light and hope even when we can only see the gloomier aspects of the current situation.

  • Exercise. Physical activity, especially when done outside several times a week gets the body and mind working together to shift any negative mindset. Exercise has many benefits; it helps us get in touch with our bodies and makes us more aware of the natural flow of life. When we are more conscious of our body, we are more awake and energized too. Exercise reduces depression, anxiety, stress, improves your memory and boosts your overall mood. Ready to up your exercise schedule now?
  • Spend time with people you care about. Camaraderie and emotional support from loved ones help us regain our equilibrium and boost positive energy. A suggestion, exercise outside with people you care about and you will get a triple dose of goodness. Spending time with loved ones also strengthens your immune system, when you're healthier you're going to feel happier too.
  • Eat healthier. More vegetables and less simple carbohydrates like breads, pastas and sweets. People feeling the effects of SAD have a tendency to eat sugary and starchy foods; be aware of this craving and you will prevent the sugar highs and lows. When your body is functioning well, you will feel better.
  • Give gratitude. Express appreciation to the people and to Spirit who have given you opportunities and much to be thankful for. When we express appreciation for what we have, it triggers positive endorphins, which makes us feel stronger both emotionally and physically. A less known benefit of gratitude is that you'll sleep better too.
  • Help others. When we are doing good things for others, we are also positively transformed. Their happiness and improved situation in many ways are transferred to us energetically. Our resilience is enhanced and the stress level is reduced.
  • Use light therapy. Get a full-spectrum bright light box and exposure yourself to it indirectly to get more natural light. Start with as little as 15 minutes -- please check with the provider for specific instructions.
  • There you have it, seven easy ways for you to regain your good humor and productivity, happy autumn!

    When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring. -- Madeleine M. Kunin