Habits to beat the winter blues


As winter sets in and the days start to get colder, we naturally spend more time indoors. In a bid to stay warm, we can slow down on our summer activities and we can be less active than is idea. With less physical activity, our moods can also take a knock. Adapting some of our lifestyle behaviours can help to beat the winter blues. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that can affect some people over the winter months. The sun comes up later and goes down a lot earlier so we can find ourselves waking up in the dark and getting home from work in the dark and this can have a negative effect on some people’s moods. As our moods plummet it can be harder to keep up with our daily responsibilities and we can have less energy and feel more irritable. Other symptoms include oversleeping, a lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyable, and a sense of apathy.

There are several ways that we can overcome the winter blues, and these include: 

Eating well

When it’s cold we can be tempted to eat more comfort foods, which may give some temporary relief, but they will have longer term consequences, such as weight gain. We can still eat foods that provide warmth and feel comforting, but we can choose healthy options like soups and stews that can be packed with good nutrients and can warm us up and be fulfilling without the negative consequences.

Getting enough sleep

The amount of sleep we need in winter might change and so it is important to adjust our schedules to allow for extra sleep, if that’s what we need. Going to bed half an hour earlier, or waking up half an hour later can be all you need to make a difference. Try not to give in to over sleeping, or sleeping for hours longer than usual because this disrupts your body clock and can make your mood and energy levels worse.

Exercise outdoors

Regardless of whether the sun is shining or not, the fresh air can do wonders for our mental and physical health. Just spending 15 minutes to half an hour doing an outdoor activity can be enough to improve our energy, mood and quality of sleep. If you’re not wanting to exercise, find a sheltered, sunny spot and enjoy a cup of tea or just spend some time sitting and enjoying the warmth.

The following is a list of mood-boosting foods that we should try and include in our diets to help beat the blues:

Oily Fish

Oily fish is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which are necessary to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in our brains. These feel-good chemicals are necessary for a good mood, lowered levels of anxiety and they help for our concentration and focus. Oily fish is also a good source of vitamin D which is necessary for a healthy mood and for our immune systems.


Mushrooms are a good source of niacin and riboflavin, which are two of the B vitamins that are necessary for a healthy mood. They are also a good source of vitamin D supplement.


Nuts are a good source of magnesium. A magnesium deficiency can result in fatigue, heart-rhythm disorders, restless legs, cramps, and muscle tension. Almonds, walnuts, and pecan nuts are a good source of tryptophan, which is the amino acid that helps to make serotonin. Nuts are so versatile – they can be added to salads and smoothies, otherwise eaten on their own as a snack.

Green veggies

Green veggies are a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are good for the nervous system. They are also high in folic acid which is necessary for heart health and memory. Make sure you include greens such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, and broccoli in your diet.

Fresh fruits

Citrus fruits, cherries and other dark berries are good sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, which are important for immune function, mood, and energy. Berries particularly are rich in folic acid which also helps for the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are neurotransmitters that are important for the regulation of our sleep-wake cycle. Bananas are a rich source of potassium as well as vitamins A, B6, and C. They are also high in carbohydrates and fiber, as well as tryptophan so they are good for an energy and mood boost.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate helps to improve our mood by stimulating the production of serotonin and endorphins. Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium which helps to reduce anxiety and is helpful for reducing muscle tension.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 8 June 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am