11 Ways to Combat the Winter Blues, According to Philly Wellness Pros

From aromatherapy to a mini getaway, here’s how Philly health and wellness pros overcome the dreaded mid-winter slump.

Want to ward off those dreaded winter blues? Here are 11 tips from Philly health and wellness pros to boost your mood this winter. / Photograph by Melissa Cannarozzo.

Every year when the temps drop and the sun sets before I even get home from work, I find myself feeling lethargic, reclusive, and sometimes, just plain sad. I, like many others, experience the winter blues — the desire to hunker down and hibernate until spring returns. For some, though, the wintertime slump is more than just being in a funk. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects 10 million Americans, typically begins in late fall and worsens in January and February.

Whether you’re trying to fight off the winter blues or you’re living with SAD, we turned to six Philly health and wellness pros for their go-to tips and tricks. Here are their 11 recommendations for boosting your mood this winter.


The Positivity Charge co-founder Parisha Smith is obsessed with good candles and essential oils all year round, but especially during the winter season. “Lighting candles or turning on a diffuser with smells ranging from lavender to maple pancakes helps relieve my stress and shifts any mood swings I may be experiencing,” Smith says.


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Body oiling

This time of year, Kilkenny Tremblay, owner of and instructor at Sanctuary Yoga and Mindfulness, turns to body oiling. The Ayurvedic technique can heal cracked and dry skin, nourish nerve endings, create an insulating effect for your nervous system, and give your lethargic self more energy. Simply take a hot shower to open your pores, then rub olive, coconut, or almond oil on your entire body. Cover yourself with a bathrobe for about 20 minutes and let the oil work its magic.

Creative stress reduction

Coined by The Stress Less Company founder Carlee Myers, “creative stress reduction” is any activity that shifts you out of fight, flight, or freeze, and into a state of play. One technique she suggests is creating a list of 100 things you love or bring you joy, like playing with your dog or baking cookies. After, ask yourself two important questions for each list item: (1) If I did this every single time I was stressed out or experiencing winter blues, would this benefit my overall health? and (2) Does this item fit into my current resources and circumstance (i.e. finances, time)? For every no, eliminate the item from the list. Based off what remains, circle items you’re most excited about exploring and take action!


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Detox your social media

Studies show that mid-winter months (January, in particular) increases couch potato tendencies, which inevitably means more screen time. To be mindful of what content you’re encountering and absorbing, clinical nutritionist and body image coach Cristina Hoyt recommends a social media detox. “I love a good purge of all the social media accounts that leave me feeling like I need to make changes to my body or make me feel less than,” Hoyt says. “Doing so can be uplifting and empowering, as it can reduce the natural tendency to compare ourselves to others.”

Find ways to warm up

If being warm makes you feel good, then seek it out where you can! Jenna Stern, nutrition coach, community coordinator at Athleta, and spin instructor at City Fitness and Fitler Club, utilizes hot yoga to replicate the summertime heat. “When you add the heated element to yoga, it’s like all your worries melt away with your sweat,” Stern says. “I leave every class feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” Additionally, Stern takes serious advantage of the saunas at City Fitness to clear her head and warm her body. Not a City Fitness member? No problem. Here’s where else you can experience infrared heat in Philly!


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Get outside

Cold weather can make it oh so tough to get out from under the covers (guilty). Despite the seemingly freezing temps, the outdoors can work wonders for your physical and mental health. The natural sunlight will raise your serotonin levels, releasing all those feel-good chemicals in your brain. Plus, all that vitamin D can keep you even-keeled. Both Smith and Myers make sure to go on walks or hikes as often as possible in the winter to both boost mood and decompress.

Go on a mini vaca

If it’s feasible for your schedule and budget, getting away for a few days can help you recharge and break up the slump between winter and spring break. (Plus, it’s great having something to look forward to!) Stern just returned from a yoga retreat in Tulum (which looked totally dreamy) and Smith takes a three-day, zero-plans trip with her family to a new place every year.


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Hit the herb section of your garden or grocery store

Aromatic herbs, which can be found in your neighborhood grocery store or even your own garden, are natural health boosters. Sage is not only loaded with antioxidants that’ll benefit your immune system, but is said to support brain health and memory (and might even aid in treating Alzheimer’s disease). Thyme has a number of health benefits, like increasing blood circulation, protecting against bad bacteria, and easing respiratory ailments that so often bring us down this time of year. Tremblay adds cooking sage into her daily morning cup of chai with cinnamon and ginger, and thyme into most dinners.

Light therapy

One of the most popular tools to combat seasonal affective disorder or general wintertime lethargy is light therapy, which involves sitting near a light box mimicking natural sunlight for about 10-20 minutes. Hoyt turns on her light therapy lamp while she’s getting ready in the morning, starting her day in the most calming way possible.

Move your muscles

Whether you’re spinning on a bike, practicing poses on your yoga mat, or simply going on a walk, moving your muscles will release endorphins, which give you ~positive vibes only~. All our experts endorse exercise of any kind, so you can feel your best self, especially during the winter months.


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Shift your mindset

Julie Jacobson, psychotherapist at Emerge Wellness, believes mindfully rerouting anxious thoughts or conversations can help you embrace — rather than dread — the winter season. To do this, Jacobson starts with feelings of gratitude for the coziness of winter, especially the months after the busy holiday season. Then, she acknowledges that this time of year inherently involves rest, something so many of us feel guilty for doing (but shouldn’t!). According to Jacobson, reminding yourself that in a few short months, your energy and social life will once again be buzzing can make a noticeable difference in mood.

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