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Falling into Winter: Mental Health Tips From Dr. Jackie Burrell

Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression triggered by the change in seasons. Also known as the “winter blues”, symptoms begin in the late fall and include signs such as: 

  • Loss of energy 

  • Oversleeping 

  • Weight gain 

  • Loss of interest in usual activities  

  • Withdrawing from loved ones 

  • Aches and pain  

  • Mood changes  

It tends to get worse over the winter and darker months and people tend to begin to feel better during the brightness of Spring.  

There are several actions you can take to prevent the “winter blues” and cope with it if you do become affected by them. 

  • Establish a regular movement routine. Choose something you enjoy! Whether that is taking regular walks, strength training, joining a yoga studio, indoor cycling, skiing, taking a dance class, martial arts, exercising at least 3 times per week helps regulate neurotransmitter levels which helps us feel mentally healthy. 

  • Optimize good sleep hygiene. Turn off technology at least an hour before bedtime and establish a nighttime routine. We function best with a regular sleep schedule. Open the blinds first thing in the morning to ensure maximum exposure to natural light, or step outside for some fresh morning light. Bright light in the morning helps stimulate serotonin production in the brain.  

  • Eat tryptophan-rich foods such as wild-caught salmon, local cage-free eggs, and organic spinach. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin production which also help to regulate mood.  

  • Check your vitamin D levels. In the winter, people have a reduced ability to make Vitamin D when they go outside. Vitamin D is a neurosteroid responsible for brain maturation and promotes cognitive functioning, aids in developing a healthy immune system, and supports bone health. If you suspect you are not getting enough Vitamin D, it is worth discussing with your healthcare provider.  

If any of this resonates with you, you are not alone. Always reach out to a healthcare provider if you are feeling any symptoms and do not be afraid to ask others for help. Winter can be a challenging time for some, but it can also be a time for solitude and for drawing inward to explore self-expression and cultivate new ways of thinking.   


Dr. Jackie Burrell, ND 

Naturopathic Physician 

Avalon Natural Medicine of Vermont

299 College Street, Burlington, Vermont       

Phone: 802.578.3449



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