If you experience depression, it may feel like winter a majority of the time: cold, dreary, foggy, and very little sunshine! The season of winter also triggers a time of depression for many people. Whether due to the holiday season, the cold and dreary weather, or other factors, many people experience an increase in sadness and depression during winter months.

Depression means feeling sad or down pervasively. Perhaps you feel helpless or hopeless. Maybe you've lost interest in things that were once enjoyable for you. Do you cry often and have a hard time holding back tears? Are you having trouble sleeping, or are you feeling tired often? Perhaps you feel worthless or experience excessive guilt. Is it hard to concentrate or make decisions on a regular basis?

If you are having these symptoms on a daily basis for longer than 2 weeks and it is not the result of a significant loss in your life, it is time to consult with a therapist or a doctor about your symptoms of depression. If you have some of these symptoms sometimes but they do not interfere with your ability to work or engage in relationships (occupational and social functioning) then keep reading!

Below are some basic tips for managing depressed moods. Keep in mind though that this is not an exhaustive list of treatment for depression. A Licensed Professional Counselor- like me:) -can help you determine if you are clinically depressed, determine whether or not medication might be beneficial for you, and can help you to further manage your depression. Here is a list of ways you can begin to manage your depressed mood or frequent sadness.

  1.  Create and stick to a daily routine. Get up in the morning and go to sleep at night around the same time every day (within an hour or so). Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Eat well-balanced and healthy meals at regular/routine times. Have structured activities that you participate in daily (work, volunteer activities, social activities, etc).

  2.  Journal your thoughts and feelings. Whether in written form, in a blog, through art or some other form, expressing your thoughts and feelings helps you to identify patterns and themes in your moods and also lets you track how often you are feeling a certain way.

  3.  Dedicate time for being social. When you are feeling sad or depressed, there is the tendency to pull away from friends. Yet during this time is when you need to be around people who care for you the most! Even if you don't "feel" like it, schedule some social time with people you enjoy being around at least 1-2 times per week.

  4.  Exercise. Get moving at least 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes each time. Exercise helps to increase one's mood naturally by releasing endorphins. Basically endorphins then trigger a positive feeling in the body. You'll actually "feel" better just by getting some exercise!

  5. Commit to thinking positively. How we think affects how we feel. See my article here for more information about this concept. If you choose to think positive thoughts, you will feel better than if you dwell only on negative thoughts. When you find yourself feeling down and realize you are thinking negatively, tell yourself "STOP" and then begin to think more positive, true and rational thoughts. In this way, you begin to manage and even overcome your depressed mood! You may need to write the positive thoughts down in order to help yourself focus on them and think about them regularly. Post positive thoughts on your mirror, your car dashboard (but make sure you can still see the speed limit!), and in other places you know you'll look frequently. Positive thinking helps decrease depressed moods.
If you try these things for several weeks and still find yourself feeling depressed on more days than not, it's time to contact a local therapist or your doctor (or better yet....BOTH)!