Winter is tough. It’s dark before dinner and sometimes it’s difficult to get warm, even inside. We get less activity, crave the sun, tend to sleep more and often many of us feel a little (or a lot) sad. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder or any sort of depression, please see a doctor to get professional help. Some people need anti-depressants or therapy. However if you only have mild symptoms, perhaps a touch of the blues or a lack of energy in these winter months, there are a few things you can try for more energy and a happier mood.

Exercise daily. Hit the gym and get the heart pounding to release some endorphins. If the weather is too frightful, you can exercise at home too. Hop on the treadmill or stepper or throw in an aerobics DVD. Whatever gets your body moving for at least 20-30 solid minutes a day.

Get outside. I know, I know, sometimes it’s the last thing we want to do in winter. But a bit of brisk fresh air is good for the soul, not to mention the brain and the body. Try taking a 20 minute walk. There is nothing like connecting with nature so try a local park or hike around a lake. A walk in light snow can be invigorating too.

Bright light therapy. Sometimes called “happy lights,” this is a simple way for our bodies to get more white light and help our sleep/wake cycle. 50% of people respond to this therapy with just 30 minutes a morning in front of the lights.

Eat right. Make sure to eat less carb-heavy and sugary foods to avoid the mid-afternoon slump. Try eating adequate protein and an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Consider taking fish oil and extra Vitamin D if needed. This vitamin is known to help especially for those of us in the Northern states.

Take a trip. If you can swing it, many people say that a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny in January or February helps them get through the winter. Not only is it relaxing but that week, or several days of sunlight, actually helps your body produce Vitamin D.

Get your normal sleep … and no more. Sleep on a consistent schedule. Getting approximately 7-8 hours a night at the same time helps your body fight illness and feel refreshed in the mornings. Sleeping in a dark cool room is best and get rid of electronic devices an hour before bed. Consider using lavender essential oil to lull you to sleep (just a few sniffs is all it takes) or a bedtime meditation.

Take up a social hobby. Sure, sitting on the couch watching a funny movie is nice, but doing it with friends is even better. Consider joining a book club with some gals. Meet for breakfast or lunch with friends once or twice a week. The gym can be a social spot also. Volunteer at your child’s school or join a “mommy and me” program if you have little ones still home.

If you work, try getting out to lunch with a co-worker instead of eating at a desk. If a babysitter is fine with you, make a date night with your partner and enjoy a night of bowling, a movie or dinner and dancing at least once a week. Painting classes are popular for women nowadays. The options are endless but you need to make sure you get out a few times a week and do something that is fun for you!

Seek medical advice if you are feeling seriously depressed or just not yourself. But if if’s a touch of the cooped-up blues, consider the above methods to break the funk. You’ll be feeling more energetic and happier. And don’t forget, Christmas week, it’ll start staying lighter out each day a minute or 2 more. But who’s counting?