Why Do I Feel More Down in the Winter Months?

As the winter months start, the days get shorter, and the weather gets colder, many people feel the effects in their mood and daily patterns. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern in the DSM-5, is a condition that, “effects 0.5 to 3 percent of individuals in the general population; it affects 10 to 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder and about 25 percent of people with bipolar disorder” (medineplus.gov). Causes may include a reduction in serotonin and an increase in melatonin the winter months, as well as lower vitamin D.

Signs to Look Out For

-Feeling sad or depressed

-Trouble with concentration and motivation

-Lack of energy

-Low motivation and trouble concentrating

-Irritability or agitation


Seasonal Affective Disorder is highly treatable. Some treatments include talk therapy, light therapy, medication, and vitamin D. Therapy light boxes and lamps can be found online and can be used for 20 to 30 minutes a day to boost mood. Talking to a therapist about how you are feeling and how to cope with the winter months is a great option to get started in improving your mood and well-being. Opening up to your support system can also help too. Overall, reach out for help if you experiencing signs of depression especially in the winter months to work on coping skills, self-care, and symptoms management.People of Color and Seasonal Depression: There's Nothing Wrong With You

Act the Opposite!

When we feel emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness, our instincts will tell us to act a certain way. For example, when you are feeling depressed you may want to isolate yourself and be alone (different than me-time which is enjoying healthy time alone). It may be tempting to stay in bed and sleep the day away. Opposite to Emotion Action is a skill used to fight against those initial responses that are actually damaging.

First, recognize the emotion that you are feeling. Try using this emotion wheel to identify specifically how you are feeling in the moment.

Next, identify the action urge or your initial idea for how you want to react to the emotion. For example, if you are angry you may want to yell or punch something at first. Your instinct could be “fight or flight”.

Reflect on if the action urge matches the FACTS of the situation. Will the action actually help the situation or make it worse?

If the action urge does NOT fit the fact, do the opposite action until your emotions change.

Here are some examples of Opposite to Emotion Action that we completed in group:

How do you “act the opposite” when faced with difficult emotions? Comment below!

Setting SMART Goals to Achieve Your Dreams

As you are getting to know yourself and becoming more self-aware, recognize what you would like to improve. Set small, achievable goals. We can’t make huge changes overnight, but taking small steps is more realistic and leads to goal achievement. Reward yourself for your small milestones.

Make your goals SMART!

S – Specific: Make your goals as detailed as possible

M – Measurable: Set how many days or times do you need to reach your goal. How do you know you reached the goal?

A – Achievable: Set, small goals so that you do not get discouraged by trying to complete a huge goal all at once. Check out the next section to see how to break down your goals.

R – Relevant: Does your goal make sense in your current circumstances?

T – Time-bound: Have a date that you are trying to reach your goal by.

Example of a goal that does not fit the SMART model: I will stop drinking soda.

Example of a SMART goal: In my first week, I will drink one can of soda a day at lunch (instead of 2) and start to drink 3 glasses of water a day. I will drink one glass of water with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In my second week, I will drink one half of a soda a day and 4 glasses of water. I will have water breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner. In my third week, I will not drink soda and drink 6 glasses of water a day, a glass at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snack times. I plan achieve this goal by January 1, 2022.

This goal is achievable and relevant given that the person in this example is pre-diabetic and looking to reduce sugar intake. These are small and achievable goals with a set date to meet them.

Make routines enjoyable

Put all of your daily goals or tasks onto a wheel at https://wheelofnames.com/. The wheel will “choose” what you will do next, taking out some of the effort of making a choice. This is a cool and fun way to make reaching your goals more into a game.

For example, put different short exercises onto your wheel or hobbies that you would like to do for 10 minutes a day. I believe that everyone can carve out 10 minutes out of their daily life and it feels great to know that you achieved that goal and took time for yourself.

What goals are you working on currently? Comment below!