It’s common to experience feelings of sadness and depression during the long winter months. It might be down to spending long periods of time indoors, the change in weather or the shorter days. If you find yourself suffering from the winter blues, check out these 10 ways to beat them.

1. Think outside the box when it comes to fitness

You might start the winter with big fitness plans, but when it comes down to it, how many of us are guilty of choosing the sofa over the treadmill ? To prevent yourself from falling into this trap, find yourself an exercise class that you actually want to do during the winter, such as trampoline aerobics. Exercise releases endorphins to make you feel happy - a great way to beat the winter blues. And if you’re really struggling to pull yourself away from the sofa, then try exercising at home using workout DVDs or following fitness videos online.

2. Get an indoor hobby

When the winter months roll in, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your interests and park yourself in front of the TV for months on end. To keep yourself occupied, take up a new hobby for the winter months that you can complete indoors, such as writing, reading, painting, learning a new language or cooking. Having a hobby you can do in the winter will help keep your mind occupied and add some fun and variety to your evenings.

3. Make someone smile

Another way to beat the winter blues is to carry out acts of kindness for other people. It might be through charity work , volunteering, or making someone close to you smile with a thoughtful gesture. Scientists carried out a study which found that people who practised daily acts of kindness over 10 days experienced a significant happiness boost. Introduce some of these small changes into your life to see how much of a positive impact it can have on your own mood.

4. Plan things

Your diary might be full during the summer months and why should this be any different in the winter? Don’t find yourself stuck in an endless routine of going to work, coming home and sitting in the house all winter. Instead, schedule in something to look forward to, it might be a weekend away, a night out with friends or something ongoing like a training for a marathon. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you can look forward to.

5. Improve your diet

While it can be tempting to indulge on comfort foods in the winter, research published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that people who consumed fast foods were 51 per cent more likely to develop depression. In light of this, look to include more nutritious food options in your diet, particularly those containing vitamin B such as chicken, soya beans and fruit. Vitamin B helps the brain produce serotonin (a chemical which helps to balance moods.)

6. Decorate your home

If you’ve grown tired of the decor of your house, then see the winter months as the perfect time to give your house a makeover. We don’t necessarily mean knocking down walls or completely refitting your kitchen, but a few simple changes can make all of the difference. Try giving your living room a lick of paint, hang up some pictures up around your house or simply rearrange the furniture. All are great ways to update your home and give it a fresh feel without breaking the bank.

7. Laugh more often

Laughter is one of the best medicines out there, particularly when it comes to the winter blues as it releases endorphins and serotonin, helping to raise your mood and reduce stress. Studies have found that even the anticipation of laughter can help to reduce stress levels and lift spirits, but many of us don’t laugh enough. Easy ways to increase your laughter is to go out with friends, watch your favourite comedian, comedy movie, or read a funny book.

8. Light up your life

The winter blues can also be brought on by a lack of sunlight as during the winter months. Many people commute to work in the dark, spend all day inside then go home when it’s dark again. To counteract these effects, get outside as much as possible to expose yourself to natural light leave your curtains open and sit close to windows where possible. You could also invest in a SAD light box, which has been proven to improve your mood and reduce feelings of sadness.

9. Have a set bedtime

Having a structured bedtime can have more of a bearing on your health than you might think. A lack of sleep can contribute towards feelings of sadness and could be part of the reason why you are experiencing the winter blues. To give yourself the best chance of getting to sleep, put away your phone at least an hour before you go to bed as the blue light emitted from electronic devices can mess with your sleeping pattern and keep your brain alert. Try unwinding with a book instead, as this will relax and prepare your body for sleep.

10. Take a vitamin D supplement

During the winter months, many of us spend less time outdoors which results in a drop in vitamin D levels and research has shown that low levels of the vitamin can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). To counteract this problem you can increase the amount of foods that contain the sunshine vitamin in your diet such as oily fish, mushrooms and eggs, or take a daily supplement of vitamin D. Alongside this, make sure you try to get outside at every possible opportunity to increase your vitamin D intake naturally.