afghani-60704_960_720The sun sets before 5 p.m. throughout much of the fall and winter.

If that bums you out, you’re in good company: Up to a quarter of people have at least mild seasonal depression, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The best way to fight the winter funk may be to simply do something fun, suggests new research from the University of Vermont.Staying active during the winter instead of being alone indoors may help ease seasonal affective disorder, the study finds.

In fact, it may be just as effective as the commonly used light therapy treatment, which involves sitting near a special fluorescent light for 30 minutes a day to counteract the effects of reduced daylight hours on your brain.

People have a tendency to withdraw from activities in the winter, says study author Kelly Rohan, Ph.D.

It’s understandable: The dark and the cold are great excuses to skip your workouts and plans with friends in favor of parking on your couch, alone, with Netflix and your favorite sweatpants.

But being a hermit for months leaves you socially isolated, Rohan says. And that isolation may contribute to the winter blues.

“Resist going into hibernation mode by pushing yourself to stay active in the winter months,” she says. “I mean ‘active’ in the broadest sense of the word—not just physical activities, but any enjoyable activity indoors or outdoors.”

That could mean investing in the gear to continue your favorite sports, like running or cycling, in the colder months, inviting your friends over to watch the game at your place, or trying out the new restaurant down the street with your girlfriend, Rohan says. Anything but being a homebody will boost your mood and fight the winter funk.

Source: Mens Health