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Chase away the Blues

If you get one thing out of today’s post, let it be this:

Eat more chocolate.

creampie

Raw Chocolate Cream Pie

People sometimes say to me, “Katie, you are like the happiest person I’ve ever met.” And it’s true: I am a happy person, 9 times out of 10. But I don’t always live up to my “happiest girl in the world” reputation. Why exactly does our society tell us it’s shameful to feel sad, anyway? Especially in the winter, there are sometimes days where I’m a far cry from my usual happy, energetic self. On these days, I have to drag myself to write a blog post, drag myself to make a meal, drag myself to meet friends or get to class… or even to get out of my pajamas!

Although my symptoms are nowhere near strong enough or frequent enough to qualify me for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it’s still no fun to feel the winter blues. And if I—a normally exuberant, loving-life girl—sometimes feel sluggish and sad, I know I can’t be the only one. So I thought I’d put together a list of ways I motivate myself, or cheer myself up, when sadness pays an unexpected visit:

vegantree

1.   Exercise!

Be sure to keep up with an exercise routine. This is a big one. Some days, when weather.com says “Cloudy and feels like 3, with 28mph winds,” I do not want to go outside. But I know that lounging around in my pjs all day, as nice as it sounds in principle, will actually make me feel worse in the long run. So I bundle up and get my butt out there.

If, where you live, winters are way too cold for outdoor activity, consider joining a gym or investing in a workout dvd. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you’re doing something.

2.   Eat Healthy Foods

Nutrient deficiencies can cause all kinds of mood issues, so the best way to combat this is to eat a variety of healthy foods, making sure to get the recommended daily veggie servings. As an added bonus, healthy-eating will lower your risk of catching a winter cold. And you won’t feel sluggish from too much sugar.  Be sure, however, to eat enough calories, as starving yourself can also make you feel sluggish (and irritable!). Always have a good breakfast:

strawberry vegan greek yogurt

Vegan Strawberry Cream

3. Take a shower in the morning

For me, a lot of the SAD-type symptoms I feel aren’t actual sadness, but simply tiredness or lack of energy. Taking a morning shower helps to wake me up. I also feel more energized when I dress up and put on make-up than when I wear sweats and a ponytail. I’m not saying you should feel the need to wear make-up for others, but sometimes dressing up can make you feel good, even if you never leave the house.

4. Get enough Sleep… but not too much

And be sure to stick to a schedule (just like with the exercising, above). In other words, try and go to sleep and get up around the same time each day.

5.   Go Outside

According to some studies, up to 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is scary because this vitamin is also known as the “happiness” vitamin. A deficiency can cause mood swings or depression. The good news is that all you need to do is get about 10 minutes of direct sunlight (without sunscreen) per day.

Also, keep your shade up during the day, and if you live somewhere that doesn’t get much sun, think about getting a full spectrum lamp or light box.

6.   Friends with Benefits

On cold, rainy days, it can be seriously tempting to cancel plans with friends, and stay home instead. Resist! My mood is so much brighter when I’m laughing with friends than when I’m lonely at home. If friends aren’t available, the radio makes a suitable stand-in. Singing at the top of one’s lungs is a must. No embarrassment; you’re alone, after all. And don’t forget your friendly animal companions. Playing with a pet does wonders for lifting one’s spirits. Don’t have a pet? Adopt!

7.  Count your Blessings

Sounds cliche, but it really works. Say them out loud if you wish. Or write them down for tangible evidence. Try to make the list as long as you can, and include even little, seemingly-silly things for which you are thankful. Also, volunteer to help others who are less fortunate. It’ll highlight just how lucky you are, and you’ll feel good helping others.

8. The Real Secret to Happiness

Chocolate!! It tastes good, releases endorphins, and there’s now scientific evidence that dark chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants… Translation? It’s healthy, people! Indulge (in moderation), and feel no guilt. Methinks that’s why I’m usually so happy—it’s thanks to all the chocolate I consume Smile.

cookie dough dip

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Dip

Question of the Day:
How do YOU chase away the blues?

And why is there such a stigma, in society, against feeling sad? Humans aren’t supposed to be happy all the time; it’d be creepily un-normal!

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Published on January 14, 2011

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
featured on The 
Today Show, CNN, 
Fox, The 
Huffington Post, and 
ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day.

Learn more about Katie

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190 Comments

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  1. Staci Dunn Silva says

    Hey there Katie
    First of all, kudos on your blog and healthy alternatives for desserts. I made your special ingredient chocolate cake for my kids (2 and 5) and they ate it up with so much delight. really cute. Anyhow, are you really moving to Brazil? I live in Brazil and I can tell you, having sunny days most of the year REALLLLYYYYY combats depression. Keep up the good work.
    Blessings –Staci

  2. Eleanor Young says

    Sometimes I just own it, if I’m feeling down I say to myself, so what you have a right to be upset, I shove on a soppy movie and cry, it makes it feel better to have a good cry.
    sometimes I cook Fajitas, with lots of veg and lots of salad and have a fruity dessert 😛 or chocolate 😛 good food makes me feel better
    the third cure for me is a good book I sit down and just read
    my final cure is talk about it, I talk to friends, or my fiancé. I also used to go bereavement counselling, if I feel really bad I’ll email my old counsellor

  3. Kim Bayne says

    What a great list…and as someone who has been diagnosed with depression I wholeheartedly agree that such basic self care actions are truly helpful. Even though it is a very complex condition and the impact is very individual to each person, sometimes even the most severe depression can be positively impacted by some simple acts of nurture to ones’ mind and body. Thanks for sharing xox

  4. Katie says

    Hi Katie!!

    I found this blog by accident when I was googling up an oatmeal recipe (LOVE oatmeal- yes, I’m weird =)) and haha, we have the same name!! AND you are so much like me!!!!! I love desserts and need to eat high- calorie things too and struggle a bit with depression and am normally optimistic and happy though… it’s so odd reading someone’s blog for ten minutes and realizing we share the same thoughts!
    I hope this doesn’t sound creeper-ish. I don’t mean to be creepy… I just think it’s so cool that we are similar. If this is weirding you out than I’m sorry! =}
    Thank you for this blog page and all your other great ones so far!!! I will keep reading your pages and think I’ve just found a new favorite site =)
    -Katie =)

  5. Julie says

    Katie, thank u very much for your wonderful recipies! I’m in love with chocolate and it makes me happy to try every single one of them. You helped me out of my rainy-spring depression – You rock girl !

  6. Lisa says

    Dear Katie,

    I like your blog a lot and I have copied many of your great recipes.
    However, this post set me back quite a lot. It is nice that you share your personal feelings with us, but that you feel sad sometimes is just that – sadness.
    However, being depressive (noted: the illness depression, not just a simple “blues”) I find it rather offensive that you pack together feeling sad sometimes with being really, really sick. I have had too many people giving me advices such as “exercise more”, “eat healthy”, or “be thankful for what you got”. This is no solution whatsoever and I rather wish those “you-can-cure-yourself-rather-easily-if-you-only-try-hard-enough”-wisdoms would stop.
    They work for feeling sad sometimes, they do not cure depression.

    I love your work, Katie, but this article reflected common knowledge more than actual facts about what depression really is.

  7. Sarah says

    This is all great advice for helping boost your mood, but it’s a bit of a touchy subject. I really like that you shared this, since most people just put on a face and never talk about any mood problems at all. I would just like to say something coming from someone who actually has a mental illness though. I know a few others have commented, but it’s important.

    Your suggestions are the exactly things that I try to do and that help me. Running has been great for me (I’m laid up with an injury and that’s just wreaking havoc), eating well, trying not to hide in a hole, etc. However, I had to spend a lot of time working with a psychiatrist with meds and a year of therapy (and trying really hard) in order to get to a point where I was capable of doing those things or even getting much benefit from them. So, if someone does have more serious issues, you need to see someone. Get help. There’s a terrible stigma against mental illness (I’m bipolar only finding out once I was put on anti depressants that threw me into severe and rapid mood cycling that ended up with me in the hospital, and have severe anxiety), but you deserve to live better. I’ve had to try so many meds and adjust them so many times, I’ve been in therapy for a year and I have a few years of just working on things on my own that let me even get to a point where Katie’s suggestions help.

    Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders. They’re serious and none of the above will lift you out of it or cure it, but the above once you’re on proper medication and getting the help you need WILL help. Just believe you can get there. It’s really hard and sometimes it feels like it isn’t even worth trying any more or that you can’t keep making the effort and failing or changing meds again only to have to stay home from work for 3 days because you can’t function, or have hand tremors that leave you unable to hold a fork well enough to eat, etc. It takes time, but as cheesy as it sounds you’re moving forward. It won’t ever go away, but it can be managed and you can enjoy things again, and you can fall down less often.

    I don’t think people meant to sound flippant or to minimize depression; I think it mostly comes from a place of misunderstanding. Never ever tell someone with depression that they just have to do the things that Katie listed. Those things are exactly what someone with mild depression can usually due to manage their symptoms. Some of those things are really helpful for anxiety as well. However, anything more than mild symptoms require a great deal more than that and there is nothing less supportive and more hurtful than telling someone who is depressed that they just need to “get out” or “believe they can be happy” or “other people have it worse”. That isn’t what depression is. It isn’t what anxiety is. It isn’t sadness. It’s an entire change of your mindset that makes awful things feel absolutely true, it’s not having the energy to get out of bed, it’s not feeling like anyone is capable of loving for you or caring for you, it’s getting to a point where you feel nothing, it’s getting to a point where you look at everything as a way to hurt yourself, and not necessarily in an emotional way. It just seems right. That isn’t something that can be fixed by a 3 mile run and a chat with your mum.

    I don’t think Katie meant this to be her sharing what helps her and how she feels likely with the hopes it would help others and maybe there were some words that could have been used otherwise, but don’t yell at her. Try not to get angry. I got upset by this post for the same reason the person before me posted and even more upset by some of the comments left. I don’t think anyone meant to be upsetting. I think it comes from a place of misunderstanding and the common use of “depressed” in a way it shouldn’t be.
    This is what works for Katie and what she hopes will help others. It was a kind thing to post and a very personal thing to post. I can’t tell people what to do or how they should respond, but I’m going to take this as Katie trying to let other people know it’s okay to feel sad and how she deals with it. People like me with more serious issues need other things (e.g. doctors, medication, therapy), but it’s all about finding what works for you and that just happens to be harder (and more expensive…) than it is for other people.

    Please try not to be flippant about mental illness, don’t tell people how they should feel or that what they’re feeling is wrong, don’t use depressed or depression when you mean sad, and try not to get angry at people for not understanding. We still have a long way to go when it comes to stigma against mental illness and a long way to go in treating it.

    If anyone does want to understand their friend or loved one (or anyone) that suffers depression a bit more:
    http://www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html
    http://www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

    Those two comics are really good.

    Thank you for sharing, Katie. I hope more people are able to open up about their own problems (whatever the severity) and share what has helped them so that maybe it can help someone else.

    On a sort of unrelated note, thank you for your blog! I found out within a month of being vegan that I have a soy allergy and within the first year was diagnosed with celiacs. Your recipes are an awesome and tasty find. I will not discuss how many mug cakes I have made or how much peanut butter I ate after looking at your recipes last night.

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