How to beat the 'winter blues' as the season changes

Thursday 1 June 2017

A girl standing with her back to the camera during winter

While less than one per cent of Australians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, many may experience the 'winter blues'.

In summary

  • Many people experience the 'winter blues' in the colder months of the year
  • Psychology Professor Greg Murray suggests maintaining social plans and exercising regularly to help prevent it

In Australia, the first of June each year marks the beginning winter. As the temperature gets cooler and the days get shorter, many people may begin to feel less energetic and productive.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that occurs during the same season each year, affects about 1 in 300 Australians.

But Swinburne Professor of Psychology Greg Murray says that many more people may experience the milder ‘winter blues’.

“As the season begins to change, people can find it difficult to wake up in the mornings. They feel more lethargic or crave carbohydrate-rich, fatty foods,” Professor Murray says.

"People report an overall lowered mood and energy levels in winter compared to the warmer months, but there are many ways to ease the symptoms.”

To help shake those winter blues, Professor Murray offers the following tips:

  • Try to get at least one hour of outdoor light each day, preferably in the morning.
  • Keep up your social life. Slot in some social events for the winter months that you can’t get out of! A ‘Winter Solstice’ or ‘Christmas in July’ dinner party could be a good idea.
  • Keep active by continuing activities such as exercise. Consider a gym membership during the colder months to keep you motivated and make the commitment to meet a friend at the gym.
  • Be realistic and understand that your productivity may not be as high as it is in the warmer months. You need to accept that there is an annual cycle and that you may not get as much done during winter. 

"Although for most of us the mood and energy changes in winter can be addressed with these simple strategies, we should keep in mind that depression at any time of year can be difficult to shift and may require professional attention,” Professor Murray says.