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How to beat the winter blues and enjoy the season!
“It’s only 7pm?? It feels like it’s 10pm already!”
How many times have you said or heard some variation of that in the past couple of weeks? Daylight Savings and the generally shortened daylight during the day can seriously mess with your understanding of time.
Beyond just a general state of confusion, the Winter Blues can impact your mood, energy level, and motivation during the winter months. Even more seriously, about 14% of the American population experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression. I think the Winter Blues is particularly difficult for folks who work full-time jobs during the main daylight hours. You wake up to darkness, go into the office, and then come home to darkness. It can start to feel like there is nothing beyond work, which is usually not a great feeling.
If you’ve been feeling a bit down, here are some tips for embracing the season and enjoying it for what it is.
This is typically one of the first things listed as a treatment for the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder. The downside is that it can be pricey and involves having to sit by a light for a significant amount of time, which can be hard to find. I recently started using these Artificial Light glasses, and I absolutely love them. I can wear them in the morning while I am waking up and doing some work, so they don’t take any additional time out of my schedule. So far they’ve helped me feel energized in the mornings and sleeping better at night.
I find it really helpful to get some outside time, even if it’s cloudy. My workday ends after sunset, so I have to find time either in the mornings or by going outside during the workday. A short walk is usually the easiest and most accessible way to get outside. It may help to even schedule this outside time into your calendar, so you don’t forget about it in the rush of daily life.
When I start to feel cold, I’m usually pretty unhappy and start to shut down and go into fight or flight mode. Often, you’re not able to control the temperature at your office, so this is a great time to pull out all of your winter sweaters. I like to have an extra sweater at the office just in case. Some of my other favorite ways to feel and stay warm are:
Hot tea– this is a great quick fix for the office. I love this sweet and spicy tea which is not caffeinated so I can drink it all day long.
Exercise– warm up your body with some physical movement. This could be a cardio session at the gym, but could also be some jumping jacks in your office or going up and down the stairs a couple of times to warm up.
Infrared Sauna – as someone whose internal body temperature runs cold, this is one of my very favorite things. It helps me get warm and importantly, stay warm! You can find spas or clubs that have them or even purchase one for your home. As an alternative, most gyms or recreation centers have standard sauna/steam rooms or hot tubs that work great as well.
No matter how many hours I spend in the sauna or with my light glasses on, winter will never be summer. So it’s useful to embrace the season for what it is and maybe even enjoy it! Here are some tips to help shift your mindset around winter.
Hygge is that comfy, cozy feeling that goes hand in hand with winter. By embracing it, it becomes easier to enjoy the colder, darker days. For example, when I come home from work and it is already totally dark outside, I will turn on twinkle lights, drink tea, light a candle, and immediately change into my most comfortable sweatpants. Surprisingly, this actually makes me feel more energized and I end up loving these long, dark evenings at home.
To learn more about hygge, check out The Little Book of Hygge!
Find winter activities that you love and look forward to
If you have a winter sport or favorite winter activity, you’re less likely to dread the season, because you have something that you’re actively looking forward to. This will probably vary depending on where you live, but could be anything from skiing, to ice skating, to drinking peppermint mocha lattes, to listening to Christmas music or watching cheesy holiday movies. Whatever appeals to you, try to find SOMETHING and make sure to incorporate it into your life when it starts to get cold out. You could even completely make this up – maybe the winter season is when you decide to try a whole bunch of new soup recipes. Or annually revisit a favorite book — that can be related to winter, or not at all. Having some tradition and routine is a great way to bring some joy into the winter season.
Change your thinking around winter and darkness
All of these techniques are ultimately part of changing your thinking about winter and the darker days. You can also use specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to do this. For example, if I’m feeling down about how dark it is outside, I might examine what my automatic negative thoughts were, look for distorted thinking, and then find a more useful thought to replace the original thought. This could be something like:
Thought: It’s so dark outside and so depressing and I hate winter and just wish that it was summer because that is the only time that I feel happy.
Distorted Thinking: Magnification, Labelling
More useful thought: I prefer summer but I’ve often felt happy during the winter as well. I like sunshine a lot but I’ve also spent plenty of my life not in sunshine and I have survived and have often felt perfectly fine during that time.
As you start to do this over and over, you’ll take the sting out of how you are feeling which opens you up to embracing the season for what it is.
If you’ve tried some of these techniques and are still feeling down, please consult your doctor or get some professional help. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression and may require expert help to address.
I will always be a summer girl. But considering I’m going to spend at least a quarter of my life in the winter (I tried just moving to California, but turns out we have winter here as well!), it is worth it to try to change my experience and mindset around winter and learn to enjoy it.
But wait, there’s more!
Winter is a long time, folks. So I’ve asked some experts to share more inspiring ideas to approach the Winter Blues. Here are some of my favorites:
How you deal with anything is how you deal with everything. You must, without fail, identify thoughts that are creating feelings in your body. If you are constantly looking at the weather forecast and forecasting yourself to feel gloomy about what is coming, you will of course feel gloomy when it arrives and even before. Your mind gives you what it thinks you want. If you spend time and energy talking about how much you dislike the season, your mind will show you through your body a response to those thoughts. It will make you dream of what you do not have right now in this moment, instead of showing you where you might find happiness and contentment in spite of the number of hours of daylight or temperature outside. Choose how you want to feel, and find things that give you that feeling. I for one love to curl up with a blanket and a good book, and winter is the perfect time for it. – Christy Bartelt, christybartelt.com
I recommend that anyone dealing with SAD or winter blues get their vitamin D levels checked. My Vit D levels used to be really low and in the gray winter months I couldn’t stand to be with myself. Now that my levels are in more of the mid part of the range it is soooo much better!! If you need to boost Vit D levels go with a natural (non-synthetic) Vit D supplement with Vit K. -Stacy Govett Rowan, https://www.custombuiltlife.com
If you’ve found a great tip to help with the Winter Blues, please share with us all in the comments below!