Do you feel SAD? Steps to beat the winter blues

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Is winter making you sad? You’re not alone.

About 15% of Canadians get the winter blues and 2-3% get Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People feel the winter blues or SAD from fall until March.

Are the winter blues the same as SAD?

No. The winter blues is milder than SAD. Those with winter blues feel moody and tired. They have low energy. Lack of sunlight affects their bodies.

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression. It is an illness that affects more women than men. Those with SAD cannot work. They cannot do everyday tasks. Doctors have found that 13-17% of people with SAD have a family member with this disorder.

How to prevent getting the winter blues

  1. Are you:
    • always sad and bored? Do you get angry quickly?
    • always sleepy? Having low energy?
    • always eating bread, pasta and sweets? Or have no appetite?
    • anti-social? (you don’t want to be with people?)
    • stressed and tense?

    You could have the winter blues if you feel these signs.

  2. Go to a doctor – Ask your family doctor for advice. Your doctor will check your blood. They may give you medicine. They will tell you what food to eat to feel better.
  3. Get enough sunlight – Go outside during the day. Take a walk on your lunch break. Play with your children in the snow. Sunlight will help your mood. If your doctor suggests light therapy, go to Winnipeg Public Library branches. They have special lamps you can use for free. This is open all year.
  4. Stay active – Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Walk outside, jog, dance or do aerobic exercises. Read How to stay active in winter to know more things you can do.
  5. Eat healthy – Don’t eat too much starchy or sweet food. Have a balanced diet. Eat proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Eat three meals every day. Have them at the same time every day. Do your best not to have a snack in between meals.
  6. Talk to someone – Talk to your partner or friend. Talking will make you feel better. Get support so you can make a change or ask for help.

Is it more than just the blues?

How do you know that it’s SAD and not just the winter blues?

  1. You eat healthy and exercise but still feel depressed.
  2. You can’t do your everyday tasks anymore.
  3. You feel hopeless and helpless.
  4. You can’t work. You are not taking care of your family.
  5. You think of committing suicide.

Talk to an expert quickly. Your family doctor can refer you to a mental health professional. You can also check CMHA Mental Health Resources.
Article updated October 17, 2023.
Sources: Don’t be SAD, Laurie McPherson, Winnipeg Health Region; Combating the winter blues (presentation slides), Blaine Roberts, English Online; More than just the winter blues?; Seasonal Affective Disorder,; Seasonal Affective Disorder, Canadian Mental Health Association; and What are endorphins? Tom Scheve, How stuff works. Retrieved December 10, 2018.

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Community Resources

Read Physical activity for Newcomers for more tips.

Use the Mental Health and Wellness Resource Finder to find the right help that you need.

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