As fall fades away and winter emerges, I feel a negative emotional, physical, and mental shift. It seems as though I lack all motivation to wake up the morning, to eat healthfully, to work out, and to live a positive and productive life. This is the worst, especially as a busy high school student who needs to be on the ball in the winter—the doom of finals is always in the back of my mind and every grade counts. Also, feeling sh*tty is just... sh*tty.

Though many people experience these "winter blues", the majority are unsure why. Luckily, there is science to explain it. It's actually called seasonal affective disorder, and it's a type of depression related to seasonal changes. Some of the symptoms are losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, issues sleeping, changes in appetite, having low energy... you get the picture. 

It's normal to have down days—we all do—but if you feel down for days at a time or feel a drastic change in your sleep and eating schedules, see a doctor. It manifests more heavily in some than others, but no matter the case, there are steps to regulate your mood and motivation in the winter to avoid letting SAD take over.

1. Make a conscious decision to take action

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Check. You've already completed this one—congrats! While we can say we are going to make changes, or we want to because we aren't feeling our best, actually taking action to fix our problems can be way more difficult. Whether you want to write your plan of action down, inform a friend so you can stay accountable, or set reminders on your phone, all are awesome steps in the right direction.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

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Keeping a list of the things I'm grateful for in life gives me much-needed perspective, and helps to keep me grounded and positive. In the colder months, I can feel myself thinking negatively, and seeing a list of the great things I have in life turns that around pretty fast. My day-to-day list varies majorly, from clean water to education to a supportive family to coffee. You can be grateful for anything, big or small.

3. Take a Vitamin D supplement

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Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine" vitamin for a reason. An essential fat-soluble nutrient, your body absorbs vitamin primarily through sun exposure, which is obviously limited in the winter. Luckily, it can be consumed in a dietary supplement as well. A 2016 study estimated 14 to 18 percent of Americans have inadequate vitamin D. Plus, it's related to SAD, as a 2013 meta-analysis proved there to be a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Statistically, people with lower vitamin D levels were at a greater risk of depression. 

4. Exercise

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Let's be honest, looking outside your frost-coated window at 5 pm to see a pitch black sky isn't exactly motivating. It certainly does not make me want to lace up my sneakers and go to the gym, but rather, curl up and watch a cheesy Christmas movie and eat cookies. There's nothing wrong with that, but research shows that people can manage or avoid SAD by exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day.

Getting out the door to exercise and stay committed isn't as hard as it seems if you approach it right. A few ways to do this is by working out earlier while it's still light out, scheduling it in at a specific time, bringing friends along, getting your gym clothes on in advance, and understanding that it's okay when your workout is 10 minutes of yoga in your bedroom or walking your dog. Anything is better than nothing!

5. Eat for positivity

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Food directly affects our mood—period. Vitamin D supplement plays a role, but personally, the right combination of antioxidants (such as wild blueberries, kidney beans, and pomegranate), B vitamins (low blood levels of B vitamins are linked to depression), and omega 3's (which have been shown to boost mood and rebuild brain cells), along with lots of vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats has made the biggest difference. Treating yourself is awesome and necessary, but nutrition is a key player when it comes to mood, so I keep it healthy most of the time.

6. Consider investing in a light box

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A big reason why people find themselves feeling more low in the wintertime is due to the lack of sun we're experiencing. A light box can help combat this, as it is literally a box filled with artificial light that mimics outdoor light, thus causing a chemical change in your brain that lifts your mood. 

It's a great option if you want something tangible to help you, and there are lots of options too.

7. Find what you love about winter

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Yes, waking up at the ass-crack of dawn when it's pitch black just to go outside and freeze your face off isn't appealing. However, there are a lot of fun and beautiful things winter has to offer. Snow is pretty, right? Hot chocolate and the holidays and ice skating are fun, right? Right. Anyway, making a list of things you love about winter can help put a positive spin on an otherwise dreary time. Positivity is crucial!

Whether you just don't like winter, or have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, depression during this time is not inevitable. Taking action is the difference between a long and somber winter, or a happy, chilly season.