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?
Great tips! We are supposedly getting more snow tonight. I’ve been trying to embrace using this time to slow down and relax a little.
Cyndi, you made a grat point. Often the weather can be a signal for what we really need to do. Slow down, less running around and enjoy being homebound.
Great tips. We are getting cooler weather here in FL and these are some thing sI will be doing this week to survive.
So funny Rebecca Bryant that 10-20 degrees cooler feels like a cold winter to Floridians. And you call it survival, but less sun is deprivation so it makes sense.
Wow! Roslyn, you are a resource center! I’ve dabbled a bit in coloring with my daughter, it’s fun… and I clicked to your link on hot chocolate, YUM!!!! You certainly got my attention, Miss Roz!!! 🙂
Nice to see you here Norma Doiron and thanks for your comment. Although we love to show our jewelry in weekly blogs, we want our fans & readers to be happy and well, so we supply varied content.Thanks for clicking to an earlier blog.
I love the idea of trying new warm recipes. It’s so fun cooking new things!
Yes, Krystle Chaney Cook, somehow we try more new recipes in winter months. The lovely aromas in our kitchens lift our mood.
Awesome suggestions to kick those winter blues to the curb! Love the suggestion to have aromas in the kitchen; it’s amazing what memories certain spices bring back and also put a smile on my face. Reading has always been a way for me to reset – might be time for a re-read of Th.e Art of Racing in the Rain. So many of the other suggestions you mentioned resonated with me as well – getting out of a funk sometimes just takes a little nudge or shift of perspective as you mention. AND – it doesn’t need to be a big investment of time or money. Winter’s looking better already – thanks Roz!!
Appreciate your thoughtful comment Deb Nelson. Given you just completed a winter challenge I imagine you are content to enjoy indoors in Maine for awhile. You have your favorite activities lined up, so enjoy- winter is not over.
I just got a winter indoor light for my office since the days are shorter but slowly they are showing more signs of sun. All good tips here.
Thanks Carol Bryant for your comment. Please let us know how your new indoor winter light works out.
One of my favourite ways to feel the colours of spring and summer is to buy myself a bouquet of flowers. I love alstroemerias because they last a long time and also come in so many fabulous colours. The lack of sun is a tough one for me. Although this winter has been better than usual as far a warm temperatures and even sun, on a dreary grey day I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. Walking helps and as my doctor recommends, being outside as close to noon as possible helps to maximize the day time light. Having acupuncture weekly is a big boost for me and knowing spring is around the corner…makes the few days when I feel the winter blues, somehow easier to make it through. Thanks for all the great suggestions in this post. I’m about to begin reading “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” by Mitch Albom, which I am excited about as it is written from the perspective of music. That idea alone has me smiling!
As usual Beverley, as someone who has long ago found ways to beat the winter blues your comments are a great contribution. I will add your reading recommendation to my list and hope the sun keeps shining thru the cold temps in NY & in Canada.
Thanks for sharing this post. This is so appropriate for me today. I am on the east coast too and felt a little down yesterday. It was a busy day of working on my website backend, no communication with clients, and it really drained me. And, to top it off, it was snowing all day and night. So, I decided to go to take a nap in the afternoon, I watched a little TV and then I went to bed at my usual time and this morning felt so much more alert and happier.
Sometimes Sabrina Quairoli, we really need to just listen to our bodies and follow what it needs. Every now & then mine sleeps for 8 hours instead of its usual 6. Those days, I may get 2 hours less work done, but I feel good, rested and that means a lot for our well being.
Such great ideas for improving out moods. I’ve read the first two of the books you suggested. I didn’t know that decadent hot chocolate was a mood enhancer. Yum! Music is so effective in changing the atmosphere. In fact, I think all of your suggestions are very appealing. Love staycations!
Appreciate your comment, Beth Niebuhr. There were so many ideas we could have included and focused on ones we personally like doing.
One of the joys of living in the South is that we get lots of warm, beautiful sunshine during the winter (it’s sunny and going to be 75 degrees today!). So this isn’t something I face much. The kitten on the image would get me out of it too 🙂
But, I love your reading list! One of my favorite books in the world is The Art of Racing in the Rain! Enzo!
Just love seeing what you read 🙂
These books have been on my list since the summer. I usually get most of my reading done on vacation and have none planned in the near future. Maybe a stay day just for a read. I like to start and finish in one sitting or stretch on the couch. Despite the cold temps, we are getting a fair amount of sunshine which streams into my office window and in my bead studio area. I always look forward to your comments, because as a published writer and editor, I like to see what caught your interest. You never fail.
Great tips! I seriously need to put away (or get rid of!) my go-to warmest grey sweats that I throw on every morning to take my son to school, then end up wearing for a few hours… I do think that is depressing me! Getting out and walking the dog definitely helps, too (me, and him!)
Kimberley, I wish I had a dog that would get me up & out. I understand about the sweats. On days I know I’m staying in, it is tempting to stay in my sweat/pjs, but I don’t. I learned a while ago, that getting dressed even if very casually, sets you up for working more productively.
Beautiful rituals – the self care, bath, reading, essential oils – I call them the feminine rituals. Any time of year is wonderful to embrace the self care – and I also see how they can shift ‘winter blues’ to feeling blissful.
Agree completely Teresa and appreciate you making the point that these rituals are great all year round. Women appreciate the reminder for self-care.
Winter was a time to quiet and reserve energy. But, in our busy paced world we cannot do this. Perhaps we need to tune in and start paying attention. I love the ideas you have put forth here. When we spend the time on our selves we disconnect from resistance and allow our inner force to recharge. When recharge we send out to the Universe we are ready for more and better alignment with our path. Oh, and a little emulsified vitamin D can also help 🙂
Appreciate your comment and contribution Karen Langston. Yes, we can take lessons from our ancestors who used the winter months so differently from us. More and more we are seeing articles reminding us of self-care and reflection. PS. I do take Usanna D.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this Roz.. you are getting so creative in your blogging. I actually just bought one of those adult therapy coloring books and my latest thing (if I could stop working on time and not interrupted by soccer) would be to thin out my stuff. I have been meaning to reorganize and purge (btw, I might have some glass beads you might be interested in buying.. if not, Varage Sale they go lol). Luckily it isn’t as cold here in Tx but it’s still colder than I would like, for sure!
Thanks Kristen, so much for enjoying the expansion of our blog topics. I have not yet bought a coloring book because if I started I might not stop. I am indoors more due to the cold temps, but making an effort to balance more other activities and work. Recently purged hubby’s closet for a vets organization, so will focus more on my closet for another drive that just came up.
Great advice, Roslyn. We got 3 ft of snow recently in the DC area and after shoveling, I took a few minutes to sit in the sun and soak in some vitamin D. Then it was hot cocoa time! Glad to see that at the top of your list. It’s good medicine. Mmmm…
Glad you liked our advice Meghan Monaghan and rested after such a big shovel. Always like to be in sync with our readers.
Winter is my time to indulge in eating as much soup as I want, Roslyn. It gets too hot during the Indian Summer months for hot soup. Miss Coco and I make the most of the afternoon sun with walks and spending time in the garden just observing nature. I love your tips.
Vatsala Shukla, you make an interesting point. We do eat different foods in seasons and I just used my last batch of homemade veggie soup. Will do a new pot for next week. Sun has been shining despite very low temps. Glad you liked our tips.
Roslyn, I loved this post – such great ideas. I get so depressed during winter ( as few months away for me here) and my motivation goes down the drain. Your ideas for mood lifting are really good and I love all the things you mentioned – crock pot smells especially – so I’m going to make a better effort on focusing on the cosy aspects of winter this year. By the way, I couldn’t put The Girl on the Train down.
I see you in winter time in Australia making beautiful crafts with your girls, snuggling them up and enjoying your time with them. Teach them how to make wooly socks, coloring away & bringing bright colors into your home. Now I have to get started on The Girl on a Train.
I sympathize with everyone experiencing the Winter blues. That’s why we left the East coast and settled in sunny southern Arizona. It’s also a safe place from which to have fond memories of cold, snow and ice. By comparison, our cold waves make me go immediately for the hot chocolate and warm soup. Again, a beautiful and informative blog post Roslyn.
Joyce Hanson, everything is relative, and I think you are just trying to recapture your past drinking hot chocolate in sunny Arizona. Thanks for enjoying our blog.
Roslyn – Great article. So much of this resonated with me as a nurse. Have you tried the new adult coloring books? I haven’t yet, but I’ve seen them & they look really cool. The really neat thing about the books are that they’re creative AND VISUAL. I know nurses who INSIST when they come home from a hard shift that they do something – anything – that’s creative & they can SEE RESULTS, even if it’s nothing more than sewing a sleeve into an outfit they’re making. So much of what we do leaves us unfulfilled because we struggle & on’t get any sort of visual affirmation that we’re progressing. Also, more & more effort is being made to “center” nurses so that the burn-out rate isn’t so high. NPR just had a huge segment on this. Anyway, things that you’re talking about – “Me” time, shifting the perspective, etc, are the therapies the experts recommend to prevent burnout – during the winter OR summer. Again – great, useful article.
Thanks so much Joan Porter. Seems like we touched on a very important topic, not just for beating the winter blues, but for specific professions subject to burn out, like nursing. Any caregiver position needs to create me time, wind down, refresh time. Thanks for highlighting this fact.
These are some great ideas, Roz, and I’m going to share them with my tribe. As you know, I especially enjoy bone broth (I drink it every day). Even though I live in a temperate climate, I don’t like cold weather so I tend to burrow inside. Getting out every so often does wonders for the soul! Last weekend, my hubby and I enjoyed the local ballet troupe.
Sounds like a nice weekend seeing your local ballet. I’m sure you also enjoyed dressing up for it and wearing some of your lovely jewelry. I thank you for the introduction of bone broth. Once I read about it in one of your posts Carol, it popped up all over.
Great post! I love to curl up in a blanket with a good book or a nice hot bath. Your the 2 nd person to mention The Nightingale I really need to get my hands on that one.
Kim,I am on a long wait list at my library for The Nightingale. I’ve read other books by C. Hannah & have always enjoyed the. Also always needed a box of tissues.
I recently just bought one of those adult coloring books. When my girls where little, I used to love coloring with them. There is somehting so relaxing about it, almost meditative.
Lisa, they say that coloring is meditative as it takes your mind to 1 place and you focus. Gives the brain a chance to relax. Plus the colors can make you feel like spring is here and that feels good.
Love the ideas! I grew up in warmer climate and can’t function well below 65F. I love aroma of spices and foods coming from my crock pot too. Stewed beef with ginger, nutmeg and star anise. Yum! I also love snuggling up with my family with a blanket on the sofa next to a roaring fire. We either watch a good movie together or read books separately. A hot bath with rose petals and candles cheers me up too.
Welcome to our blog Mui and I love your contribution to the conversation. All the things you do sounds like you can handle the winter blues. Just keep exploring new ways to get thru temps below 65 degrees.
Hi Roslyn 🙂
Great tips! I myself like to just change my outlook and my environment in these winter months and that always helps me 🙂 I go to the gym 4 times a week and that definately helps! Thanks for sharing 🙂
So good Joan that you chose a way to beat the winter blues. Thanks for your comment.
Great post Roz! Your suggestions are fabulous not just to combat the winter blues, but any time. Me time, exercise, trying new things, enough sunlight, and so much more make a huge difference in a person’s over all mood and level of health. Good stuff!
I agree Takara, that all the ideas we mention are good activities any time. So important to maintain a balance to maintain a healthy mood.
Great tips on beating g the winter blues! I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and the winters are brutal! I find myself being impacted by this weather. Exercising and reading help get through these bad winters. On those days we are snowed in, I am learning to enbrace these as days to slow down and not feel guilty about relaxing. Great post!
Appreciate your thoughts and how you beat the blues Sharise Hemby-Nance.
Great suggestions, Roz. I live in a state that is rarely cold, and actually has enough sunlight to give Vitamin D all year long, but we all get cranky and down when it gets cold. February is usually the worst month, too. Bright colors tend to help, as well as music. I usually get myself new makeup or reallllly cute shoes.
And hey, hot chocolate is always a great idea!
Must be nice Liz to live in relatively warm climate all year long. Next time you need a lift, instead of your feet, you might think about a different accessory. One closer to your lovely face.
Some very good tips Roslyn for the winter period. To read a good book or to spruce up your house or hang out with friends are all good things to feel better. 🙂
Glad even over in Italy you see that the same activities can help with the weather and our spirits.
Great tips! Thank you so much. I think we are approaching spring now on March 3rd in North Carolina. Good-bye winter!!!
Some days Amanda I feel a struggle between the two seasons. Today we have sun & tonight they say will dip low into the 20’s with possibility of a snow shower. I think I will have to wait a few more weeks to say goodbye for good to winter.