Here on the East Coast, we’ve just made it through a major snowstorm. Snow and lack of sunlight can make it hard to get up and about. Many of us, regardless of where we live, slump into the “winter blues”. Fear not: there are ways to survive these temporary doldrums. We can beat the winter blues.
We should be aware that our bodies’ production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which contributes to our feelings of well-being, decreases with less access to sunlight but there are ways of off-setting this phenomenon. In addition to getting as much daylight as possible by keeping the blinds open or getting outside, the best way to increase serotonin is exercise. Breaking a sweat on a treadmill or elliptical machine is terrific for an exercise ‘high’ but strenuous activity isn’t always necessary; gentle yoga that focuses on breath work or practicing meditation and deep breathing will increase oxygenation, clear the mind and lighten one’s mood.
I’m not addressing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) here, which is a clinical mood disorder that causes depression in normally healthy people during winter months due to lack of sunlight. This chronic depression begins and ends with the low-light season, saps energy and positive feelings. There are specific treatments to help SAD sufferers.
So what are the plain old winter blues? They are characterized by a lack of motivation, low energy, feeling “blah” or just “sick and tired” of gray skies and frigid temperatures. Not to fret: they are treatable too.
Embrace the Winter Season
What if you’re not into skiing, snowboarding, hiking on snow-covered trails? How do you embrace winter. There are other gentler indoor activities that can make us feel better during the winter months.
- Enjoy some hot chocolate – try a decadent variety from our blog that has a high cacao content and is therefore higher in phenylalanine, a mood booster.
- Try some new warming recipes. Homemade nourishing soups are a great lunch, and I am overwhelmed by all the recipe resources. I’ve been noticing talk about bone broth. Have you tried it?
- Something else I love in the winter is the aroma of certain spices and foods coming from my crock pot. Scents like ginger and nutmeg are so pleasing when they waft through the house.
A Good Read Does Wonders
A favorite winter activity of mine is taking a trip through my imagination by curling up with a good book. Are there books left over from your summer reading list? Here is my current list:
The Art of Racing In The Rain: A 2008 novel by American author and film producer Garth Stein — life philosophy told from a dog’s point of view.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, recently made into a movie: An emotional thriller.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: A provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: Bravery, courage, fear and love for two sisters during the Second World War.
Although women tend to nurture others before themselves, taking time for yourself on a regular basis will help you to tune into your emotions, interests and goals and regenerate yourself.
- Make time to rest and get quality sleep. Studies do say that early to bed and early to rise is helpful for mood and energy particularly if we’re trying to get as much sunlight as possible. But even if you’re a night owl, clearing your head before sleep and getting some extra shut eye on the weekend can do wonders.
- Ever hear of a “stay-cation”? Planning your next vacation and having something to look forward to can give you a lift, but that may not be possible. Sometimes just having a day away from routine tasks and chores is inspiring, like a trip to a day spa or a cultural event.
- Nurture yourself with little luxuries at home: eat breakfast in bed, or soak in a warm bath by candlelight, add a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow or put a fragrant flower like freesia or lily on your nightstand. Scents can be transportive, mood elevators.
Shift Your Perspective
A slight shift in our routine or environment can have a big impact on how we feel. Some of these ideas may be challenging to take on but many of them just require being open to trying something new. We can choose to:
- Take up a new hobby. Adult coloring has become quite popular as a creative meditation, treat yourself to a gorgeous coloring book and some colored pencils. Here’s a link to free downloads of a mandala coloring book.
- Turn on some music, anything that pleases you and gets you humming. I often catch a music video on Facebook and when I do it gets me moving, speeds my work along.
- Stay connected to friends and family and help someone else, it’s motivating and gratifying.
- Get a couple of new little things in your home like colorful throw pillows or a new mug for your morning drink that will make you smile as you start your day.
- Dare to try a new look. I’m not suggesting a total make-over but a good rummage through your wardrobe. We all have our favorite comfy clothes or “uniforms” that we grab from the front of our closets but what about wearing the pieces you love but seldom wear? The fabulous hats that sit on the shelf or the jewelry that sits in a drawer. Take them out for a spin and you just may get a fresh view of yourself!
Any of these suggestions can help you cope and overcome winter blues. To keep yourself from winter despair choose something that makes you happy and leaves you feeling good. Then make it happen. Which one (ones) do you choose?