It's the time of year where we crave more sunlight. See what it means for your health and what you can do to stay bright all season long.
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The end of daylight saving time on the first Sunday in November marks the unofficial start of winter, and until our clocks spring forward again in March, most of us see much less sunlight throughout the day. Some prefer the shortened winter days, but for the rest of us, it takes some time to get used to. Combine that with the frigid, blustery weather, and winter can feel pretty dreary.

Young family playing outside in the snow
Credit: Vesnaandjic/Getty Images

The prolonged nights and unfriendly temperatures can cause some to develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression common in the winter months that results in moodiness and low energy. It can be caused by a disruption in your biological clock, such as a lack of sunlight. About four in five people believe they've suffered from SAD, according to a recent study of more than 2,000 Americans conducted on behalf of Heat Holders, a thermal apparel company. Women are four times more likely to experience SAD than men, and those with a family history of depression are also more likely to suffer from it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Luckily, there are a handful of things you can do to combat the winter blues that come with the end of daylight saving time. Keep reading to see a few products and practices you can adopt that can help you feel a bit brighter, even when the sun isn't shining.

white sitting room with blue, green, and yellow accents
Credit: Kim Cornelison

1. Embrace hygge.

The Danes have found a way to embrace cold winter nights that they call hygge. While hygge is technically a year-round thing, it becomes especially helpful when the weather dips below freezing. In simple terms, hygge refers to the art of getting cozy, challenging you to take advantage of this time of year by carving out special moments in the day just for you. Light a favorite candle, pour a cup of tea, and slip on your fuzzy socks. Find comfort in knowing you don't have to leave your couch for the rest of the night.

2. Try light therapy.

Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is one of the first things doctors recommend to someone experiencing seasonal affective disorder, though it can also be enjoyed by folks who just miss the summer sunlight. It typically involves sitting a few feet from a light therapy box (facing toward it but not looking directly into the light) for up to an hour each day. These special lamps mimic the sunlight, which can increase your energy, help balance your circadian rhythm, and get your day started on a brighter note. Although light therapy is generally low-risk, it's best to talk to your doctor first to determine the timing and duration that's right for you.

Buy It: Light Therapy Lamp, $22 (was $30), Amazon

3. Practice regular exercise.

Getting your body moving is a great way to ease out of a winter slump, but that doesn't mean you have to run a mile each day or take up weight lifting. Yoga, for example, is scientifically proven to increase serotonin, the chemical responsible for stabilizing your mood and reducing anxiety. Completing a simple yoga routine can reawaken your senses and get your day started on the right foot.

4. Take vitamin D supplements.

If you have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, there's a good chance the sun is already starting to set by the time you get off work in the winter. Without spending sufficient time in the sun, you can develop a vitamin D deficiency that can cause mood changes, tiredness, and muscle weakness or pain. One way to fix that during the winter months is with a vitamin D supplement, which can provide your daily value of the nutrient through capsules, gummies, mouth sprays, or topical creams.

5. Reach out to friends.

There's nothing like a winter storm to make you want to curl up on the couch and not leave your home. But winter can become lonely if you start to go days without seeing anyone else. Get out of your winter rut by connecting with family and friends, either in person or virtually. A quick meet-up, phone call, or handwritten note can go a long way.

6. Use a sunrise alarm clock.

As the days get shorter, you might find it difficult to wake up when the sun is still below the horizon. Instead of using an alarm that blares loud music or beeping, try a sunrise alarm clock that simulates dawn. These programmable devices emit light that gradually increases in intensity over a set period of time, usually beginning around 30 minutes before your desired wake-up time, to cue you awake more naturally. Look for one that uses full-spectrum light, which most closely mimics natural sunlight.

Saute Vegetables broccoli carrots
Credit: Jason Donnelly

7. Eat more mood-boosting foods.

Nutrition is a key part of your overall well-being, so it's not altogether surprising that some foods can have a positive effect on our moods. Instead of reaching for processed, sugary foods when you feel down, opt for a probiotic-rich yogurt or a brightly colored fruit or vegetable as a snack. Next time you hit the grocery store, focus on filling your cart with foods that provide a variety of nutrients including amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats.

8. Seek professional help.

Simple lifestyle changes can only do so much good. If you're truly struggling, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Your doctor can recommend a course of action to help treat SAD and other mental health issues.


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