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Dealing with Winter Blues in Recovery

If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, please call our partner facility today:
The PAC Program
(866) 516-8266


It’s getting colder. It’s getting darker. Winter is coming. For some people, this is the hardest part of the year.

Being indoors can be great, sure—especially around this time. Who doesn’t love sitting around a fire with family, watching Christmas movies, eating cookies, and sipping cocoa? Still, some of us need a certain amount of daylight and outdoors time to feel and function normally.

Short, overcast days can cause feelings of stress, and the holiday festivities rarely help alleviate those feelings.

You may not realize how much outdoor time you need to feel healthy and happy. Being indoors all day may not be all that fulfilling, but we tend to lose sight of that simply because it’s so easy. It’s easy to game, watch tv, or sleep all day. It makes us feel content—not stimulated—and we get comfortable with that mild boredom. Some call it cabin fever.


There exists a clinical diagnoses for the winter blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD is basically seasonal depression caused by short, cold, and dark weather conditions. Irritability, sluggishness, fatigue, and a lack of motivation are some clues to look out for.

Those that struggle with addiction are more likely to suffer from SAD than an average person. More than anyone, these individuals must learn how to deal with their symptoms.

Get outside

Big surprise, right? It’s that simple. Most activities, like reading or exercising, can be done outside as well as inside. If no outdoor-compatible activities interest you, you’ll just have to find some. Don’t use cold or heat as an excuse to stay inside; if you can dress appropriately for the weather, do it.

Get up earlier

This one is often overlooked. One of the biggest cost of sleeping till noon isn’t the time lost, but the daylight. Sleeping the sun away has awful effects on the psyche, which you may not even notice. Sleeping late once in a while is okay, but there’s a real bliss that comes with experiencing the full day in all its glory: morning, afternoon, evening, and night.


No, a ten minute walk or elliptical cycle doesn’t count. You should break a sweat when you exercise, and you should do it more than once or twice per week. Only vigorous exercise produces dopamine, the natural, healthy euphoria that will stave off cravings and maintain your motivation to be sober. When exercise becomes part of our daily routine, the overall levels of dopamine in our brains increases, and the dopamine receptors heal much more quickly.