20 Simple Ways to Combat the Winter Doldrums

This post is an oldie but a goodie, but since Punxsutawney Phil just saw his shadow I’d say it’s pretty relevant to many of us. So here are 20 Simple Ways to Combat the Winter Doldrums that many of us battle each year.

combat winter doldrums
They’re baaaaack! The winter doldrums have been in full force this winter. You’d think after writing about it this same time for the past two years, I’d be prepared to battle them head-on to avoid the funk, but it done crept up on me. It done did.

In an effort to regain some balance (and my brain), I sat down yesterday to make a quick list of some things that may help get defunkdefied. Below is a list of 20 simple ways to help battle the winter doldrums. By no means is it a complete list, so please, pretty please, add any ideas you have in the comments section.

20 Simple Ways to Combat the Winter Doldrums

  1. Plan a garden. This is the time of year to get that garden planned, and whether you live on a farm or an apartment, there is usually some way to grow something in your space. Get creative. Find a local nursery and ask what they suggest if you’re unsure of what works in your area. A small herb garden is always a good place to start if you’re new to gardening.
  2. Work a puzzle. A crossword puzzle, jigsaw puzzle, Scrabble, or similar. Did you know that puzzles require both sides of the brain to function? They engage the logistics of the left brain, and the creativity of the right brain, so when you get both sides working at the same time not only is it just plain good for the exercise of your brain, but it can help you be focused, more alert, and expand your creativity.
  3. Write a poem or song. Similar to puzzles, a poem will engage your creative right side, and the logistical left side by organizing the words, phrases, etcetera. Plus, for me it’s just fun and silly. If you’ve yet to see my infamous work, or just need a laugh, check this one out … I call it Scatter Brain.
  4. Scream therapy. Yesterday, while doing laundry, I stuck my head in the dryer and screamed. It was free. It helped a little. Although I freaked my kids out and possibly the birds nesting in the dryer vent, I felt a tad bit better, not to mention, silly. (I have no medical proof that this works, but try it and get back to me with your results.)
  5. Make something for someone else. Bake or make something for someone else, just because. Surprise someone with a batch of cookies, or knit a scarf for a friend, the local librarian or service person as a thank you, or just see them smile. Maybe attach a poem to it too. Not only is it nice, but it gets your hands and your mind working (that brain thing again).
  6. Change your perspective. I wrote about this a while ago. It’s simple and anyone can do it right where you are. Sit in a different chair, lay on the floor, take a walk, or drive a different route to work. Small changes in the way we see the everyday can make a big difference.
  7. Turn up the music. Discover new artists, or enjoy old favorites. Music can soothe the soul, or perk you up, and get you moving. Seriously simple, but one of the most important things that helps me move through the blues.
  8. Aromatherapy. Sometimes just a change in the air will do it for me. Light a favorite candle, simmer a pot of citrus stovetop, or, if you grow rosemary or other fragrant herbs, put a few sprigs in a vase nearby.
  9. Watch a comedy. Laughing can really change your outlook by relaxing you, and cause real chemical changes with the release of feel-good endorphins. Anyone catch that new “New Girl” show? Funny stuff.
  10. Eat citrus. If you’re a pirate you know the benefits that Vitamin C can have on your overall health and immune system. If you do a quick online search you’ll find several articles touting the benefits of Vitamin C on mental health. Makes those boxes of Cuties mandarins and clementines that I’ve been seeing in the grocery even that much cuter. Pass me a clementine, ARGH!
  11. Get some sunshine. Recently when I took my teenage daughter to the doctor for a routine checkup the doctor mentioned paying attention to Vitamin D. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin D does a body good, and you can get a good amount from sunshine. Do some reading (because I’m not a doctor or an expert on vitamins) and you’ll see how Vitamin D can really help, or, if you’re Vitamin D deficient, really hurt.
  12. Try something new. Whether it’s as simple as buying a strange fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before, or more involved as learning an instrument, doing the Zumba thing, taking up knitting, sewing (or gluing in my case), or carving a bear out of a log, try something new even if for just 15 minutes a day. Give it a go! It may be a new hobby that you’ll carry with you the rest of your life.
  13. Plan a vacation night at home. Choose a destination and make it happen at home. Maybe St. Lucia is your dream. Turn on some Caribbean music, plan an island inspired menu, and create a table setting with flowers and fruit for a nice change of pace. Possibly even finish the night off with a movie set in that destination. Have fun with it!
  14. Rearrange. We just rearranged our furniture. It confused our dog, but made me smile. If you can’t do that, buy some inexpensive pillows and/or throw, or house plant for a quick change.
  15. Bring the outside in. I always try to keep fresh flowers or green cuttings around in the summer, but it’s not always easy during the winter. Look for sticks, rocks, pine cones, evergreen branches to add interest to a table or counter, or a big bowl of fresh fruit to brighten things up.
  16. Move it. Yeah, you knew it would be on the list, but there’s good reason for it. Exercise, even a simple walk, increases blood flow throughout the body, and releases chemicals in the brain that may help your mood. And right now, my mood be needing the help y’all. Get moving, you’ll be glad you did.
  17. Volunteer. Helping others isn’t only … well, helpful, but it’s good to put your mind on someone else and what they need. Local libraries or schools may offer opportunities to read to children, nursing homes could use assistance in many ways, and pet shelters are always in need of another set of hands. Look for listings in your area for other ways to help out.
  18. Take a local tour. Check out your area for new shops, galleries, museums, aquariums, restaurants, and the like, and be a visitor in your town. You may be surprised at what you find right under your nose.
  19. Get a tuneup. Due for a haircut? Maybe it’s time for a new style, or a funky fresh manicure.
  20. Plan a party. Host a get together at your home, park, or restaurant. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Maybe just a coffee and game night for a few friends? Being with other people, outside of our work and regular routine, is fun and good for our mood.

Now it’s your turn. Share any creative ideas below in the comment section that you have to battle the winter blahs. Can’t wait to read them!

AND, I almost forgot, remember to smile, even if you don’t feel like it. It helps you feel better and those looking at you too.


ideas to combat winter doldrums


Updated 2/10/15. Originally posted 1/25/12.

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  1. 1

    Kristen says

    I get SAD this time of year as well. We have had such a mild winter – it’s been really lovely, so I’m surprised that even with the weather like it is, I am feeling blah. Great list. Smile :)

  2. 3

    SMITH BITES says

    you know . . . i just had a visit w/my doc 2wks ago . . . and . . . she ordered a vitamin K blood draw to see where if my levels were normal . . . and . . . they’re waayyyyyyy under . . . huh . . . no wonder i am feeling like i wanna crawl in a hole and cover myself up w/the dirt . . . soooooo . . . i am now taking a prescription strength vitamin k and they’ll check my levels in another 8 weeks and go from there . . . guess what i’m saying is that i didn’t realize until this year that feeling blue can actually mean a deficiency in vitamin k . . . might want to add that to you list . . . and might also be something to talk w/the doc about . . .

    • 4


      Hey Deb!
      You know, Robyn from Add a Pinch, has been telling me a lot about Vitamin B. I didn’t even think about adding it to the list, but it would make a great #21 wouldn’t it? I’m checking into it stat!


      • 5

        SMITH BITES says

        CORRECTION: VITAMIN D . . . i have no idea WHY i said vitamin K . . . this woke me up from a dead sleep at 3am this morning in a complete panic thinking, ‘surely i did NOT type ‘k’ on that comment . . .’ losing it Amy, totally losing it here . . . sorry about the confusion but i am now taking prescription strength VITAMIN D supplements and honestly, i think i’m beginning to feel better . . . now if they could only do something about my scattered brain . . .

  3. 7

    Carol Havird says

    I love your suggestions, Amy.
    Zumba is great fun!

    Playing catch with your dog outside..weather permitting is good for both of you!

    Fresh cut flowers work wonders..(from grocery floral dept.)

    I am refreshing my memory from long ago of…Spanish. I am amazed at how much I remember and how much new material I am now learning!


    • 8


      Spanish? That’s great Carol! I need to think about learning a new language. And then I’d have a great excuse to plan a trip, right?


  4. 9

    Aggie says

    Amy…I definitely have the blues right now. Every single year. I am always sad in January. I go to the doctor, I get my blood work done, I think I have mono, I think something is really wrong with me. Every year. This year I know better…and I thought I would be prepared too. But they crept up on me again.
    Your list totally makes me smile. I want to print it out and tape it to my mirror. And I want to go buy a crate of clementines.

  5. 11


    I love #5, and I’ve taken it a step further when I’ve had the winter blues and have planned an entire meal for another family. It takes your right out of your funk and gives good perspective. Sheila at @Eat2Gather is doing something cool on Fridays and having people link up meals they would take to others. Cool idea!

    Love your tips, girl. I was blue one day last week. The hot tub cheered me up because it was nice and warm but really cold outside. I love to think and pray when I’m outdoors in the hot tub.


  6. 13

    Kathy says

    I love your email for the thoughtful help it gives to those suffering from SAD. I’m the opposite, though. I LOVE winter. I like the dark days and the overcast skies. I hate summer instead! It’s hot, there’s too much light, and where I live anyway, the sun is relentless. So it must take all kinds!

  7. 17

    Wenderly says

    Great ideas Amy!! This time of year gets to me too. Music is another form of therapy for me. I love blasting favorite tunes and then finding new ones that give me a whole new chance to *fall in love* yet again. And I love chit chatting with dear friends like you. Speaking of which we’ll have to chit chat sometime soon. Love you sweets.

  8. 18


    Yes!!! I have to actively work to keep the sky from falling on me, too. Sometimes, I succeed…most of the time I don’t. I would like to add take a shower and get dressed to the list. In all seriousness, something so simple can make all the difference. As a mom of 2 little ones, it is too easy for me to declare every day “Pajama Day”. Eventually, all those pajama days pull me down.

    • 19


      I remember days like that Sara. You’re smart to recognize that too much of anything isn’t good – even Pajama Day! Keep on truckin!


  9. 20

    lizinwfb says

    WOW, in the past week, I have rearranged the furniture, baked for someone and changed up the music list on Pandora…. Next will be the scream therapy! Thank you for all of the ideas. I am actually on the way to the market and will be adding a big bowl of fruit! GREAT IDEA! Thank you Thank you!

  10. 24


    This is such a wonderful post Amy. Do you think I would look odd if I lied down on my table at Startbucks…I am due to change my perspective.

    • 25


      Marla, please tell me you did lay down on the floor at Starbucks. I so would have loved to see that! ; )

  11. 26


    LOL on #4 and I have to do it. This is such an amazing list and i have to try all of these, already started with few :) :) :)

  12. 28

    Sommer@ASpicyPerspective says

    Good post Amy. The gray sky not only makes me stir-crazy, it gives me headaches. I keep telling Dan the only way to really combat that is to move to Hawaii!

  13. 29


    Great ideas to combat winter doldrums Amy! I started teaching a mini series of cooking classes at our senior center last year. It was so rewarding because it made their winter go by faster and kept me busy. I find staying indoors makes things worse, so I force myself to get out as much as possible. Seeing friends and sharing a cup of coffee always helps too.

  14. 30

    Jennifer says

    Winter doldrums …. I am in so deep this year. *sigh* We are moving in just 12 days from Alabama to South Carolina and I cannot seem to escape them. The unknown just really traps me sometimes. I love your ideas. I hope to have a small garden in our backyard. It’s going to be a challenge going from freedom of expression in the country to homeowners association rules in the city, but one I would like to take on! =)

    Have a great weekend!

  15. 31

    Marly says

    What a great list, Amy. It’s so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way this time of year. I love the idea of planning a garden. I can almost feel the hot sun on my back as I admire the tomatoes in my garden. I’m such a dreamer because that hasn’t happened yet (I have squirrel issues in my yard), but I love the thought of it.

  16. 32

    Tonya says

    Just came across your great little blog :) Getting a massage helps me treat myself and feel a little better during the winter season! Nice list though!

  17. 34

    Lynda says

    Number 4: Stick your head in the dryer and scream!!!! ROFL!!!! And I thought it was only me….

  18. 35

    allie@ThroughHerLookingGlass says

    Really needed this list today! Things aren’t exactly dark and gloomy here. They’re just white. Very, very white! Thnx. friend!

  19. 36

    Rosemary says

    Exercise is always number 1 for me. But, your advice on laughing and something new are a must as others have recently advised these 2also! And the sun is warmer, a good excuse to leave the house and take the new puppy for a walk.

  20. 37


    My favorite is to buy some new board games or card games. im a sucker for games…..especially in winter.

    Funny about screaming in the dryer. My kids would love that!

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