12 Ways to Keep the Winter Blues at Bay
In the winter time, the days are short and the nights are long and the beach seems like it’s a lifetime away. You get up in the dark and go home from work in the dark and the sun rarely stops by during the day. To make matters worse January brings the post-holiday letdown, the arrival of all those Christmas gifts bills, the knowledge that the worst of the winter weather is yet to come and the specter of all those holiday lights that brightened up the landscape being removed and shoved back into boxes until next year. Yup, the winter sucks and it’s hard not to stay positive in the light of all that dark. But we’ve cobbled together some tips that should help you stave off the winter blues so that when you finally emerge from hibernation in March or April you’re ready to rumble.
People have known for ages that winter can be hard on the soul. Many pagan holidays in ancient Rome, for instance, were celebrated in December because they helped give people’s spirits a lift during the darkest time of the year. But we’re not here to institute a new pagan holiday. Though you can never really have enough of those, can you? No, we’re here to provide some of our own tips that should help prevent you from falling through the emotional ice when Old Man Winter comes knocking.
Watch the Sunrise
The sun gets all shy during the winter and spends a lot of time hugging the horizon and playing hard to get. It’s one of the biggest reasons people feel down during the winter time. The sun is, after all, why we’re here. No sun, no life on earth. So when we don’t get enough sunlight everything from our mood to our products to our ability to get a good night’s sleep can suffer. Therefore it’s important to maintain your relationship with everyone’s favorite star and a good way to do that is to get up early and watch the sunrise. Even if it’s cloudy witnessing the transition from night to day will provide a subtle boost to your spirits and help ensure your day gets off on the right foot. Early mornings during the winter can also be an extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful time, especially if there’s fresh snow on the ground.
Set up a Bird Feeder
We aren’t the only ones who suffer from the winter blues. Non-migratory birds have a hard time finding enough to eat during the winter months when lakes are frozen over, flying insects are nowhere to be seen and fruit long ago fell from the trees and was covered in snow. Setting up a bird feeder outside the kitchen window is a great way to stay involved and lift your spirits during the winter. Watching the local birds swoop in to grab breakfast at sunrise can provide a deep sense of satisfaction, improve your mood and give you a very real sense of being engaged with your environment, even if winter doesn’t seem to be engaging much with you. You’ll also have something to look forward to and the variety and beauty of some of your winged guests will likely surprise you.
While the birdies belly up to the feeder for breakfast make sure you follow their example and have breakfast yourself. Breakfast serves a number of important functions and is particularly vital during the winter months. It helps reinforce your circadian rhythms, provides much-needed fuel to keep you warm and much-needed energy. Because even simple things like walking to the store can be far more difficult in winter when the snow is falling and there’s a cold wind in your face. What you eat is just as important as when you eat. Make sure your breakfast includes complex carbs along with fruit and nuts if possible. And there’s nothing wrong with a hard boiled egg as well. If you’re on the keto diet winter was made for your big fat bacon and eggs breakfast. Finally, a good breakfast should be part of your everyday morning routine.
Now that you’ve witnessed the sun seeping over the horizon and watched the birds nipping at the feeder to get the breakfast you provided then it’s time to consider going out yourself. So finish off your coffee or green tea, bundle up and go take a walk around the neighborhood. This is another activity that will get you engaged with your world. Which is the best antidote for what commonly ails the spirit during winter? Stop in at the local market and say hi, feel the clean bracing air against your cheeks, get some oxygen in your brain and soak in the as much natural light as possible. By the time you return home, you’ll be ready to face whatever the day has in store.
One of the main reasons our mood suffers in the winter is because we become sedentary as opposed to the summer when we tend to be active. In the warm weather months, we’re outside walking, hanging in the park with friends, cycling and running. But in the winter the tendency is to stay in and watch TV while keeping up to date on social media. Buck the trend. If you’re a runner who doesn’t want to risk injury running on slippery sidewalks join a health club. In fact, join one whether you’re a runner or not. Or see if there is an indoor pool where you can do laps. If you’d rather stay closer to home set up a home gym in the basement and workout for an hour a day. And make sure that the gym is brightly lit. Science long ago proved what most people already knew; that exercising helps elevate your mood and fight off the blahs. So don’t just sit there, go get some exercise. And make sure you do so at least every other day all winter long.
Why do cooks always seem so happy? (Not counting those so-called “celebrity chefs” that always seem like they sat on a tack.) It’s because cooking is great for your mental health. It gets you engaged in a positive activity, keeps your mind off your troubles and provides a sense of real accomplishment. All these things are particularly helpful during the winter months when the tendency is to lounge around wallowing in the darkness of it all. A good cooking session can help alleviate the drift toward procrastination and provide a sense of real accomplishment. Cooking also tends to be contagious in that people who become adept at cooking typically love to share their talent with others. They invite people to dinner more than non-cookers and that type of socializing is another key element in keeping spirits up during the winter time. So make sure you check out our cook books guide and pick the one that suits you the most.
Listen to Your Favorite Music
If you’re housebound during a big storm, or even if you’re just in for the evening with no particular plans, crank up your favorite tunes while you’re cooking dinner and relax. Multiple studies have shown that listening to your favorite music can lift the spirit, even if your favorite music is Mozart’s Requiem. The point is that you engage your mind rather than letting it wander and provide yourself a tiny reminder of why you love this whole life thing so much.
Do Something Nice
Performing random acts of kindness lifts the spirit and empowers the soul. And there’s no better time to do both then during the winter when everybody’s spirits could use a lift. It doesn’t have to be anything big and it shouldn’t be anything that could be taken the wrong way (no whistling at unsuspecting co-workers to let them know how goooood they’re looking). Instead bring cookies to work, help an elderly person cross the street, buy food for a homeless person, hold the elevator door for someone even if you’re in a rush, allow that other driver to cut in front of you at the toll booth, help push someone’s car out of the snow or buy a round at the bar. Nice things have a way of coming back at you too. So use winter as an excuse for being a real goody-two-shoes. You’ll help make the world a better place while you ward off the winter blues.
Lively up Your House
Lightening up your spirits is often a matter of lightening up your house. Pull those drapes aside the minute you wake up and leave them open until the sun goes down. All of them. If there are bushes or trees blocking your windows have them trimmed back to let in the sun. Clean those windows regularly as well to let in as much light as possible. Lively up the interior by going out and getting some of the brightest, sweetest smelling flowers you can find and putting some in the living room and others in the kitchen. If the walls in the kitchen are a bit drab paint them yellow and white and adjust the rest of the decor to match. Also, keep your home clean since a dirty, cluttered living space lends weight to feelings of sadness and can be emotionally enervating.
Stay Engaged with Family and Friends
By this we don’t mean post to Facebook (although you can do that too). We mean visit them or do something totally radical like calling and talking to them instead of trying to communicate using emojis. The best time to call someone is in the evening when the sun has gone down and you are likely most susceptible to feeling blue. Don’t talk their ears off either (unless of course, they’re in the mood to talk). Just check in, ask them about their day, make a bit of small talk about the news or something that’s going on and then let them go. It will help both of you. And rotate the people you call as well. Call your best friend on Monday, your brother or sister on Tuesday and it’s always a good day to call mom or dad or grandma and grandpa. Especially grandma and grandpa.
Have a Party!
The Thanksgiving to New Year’s social axis gets the party love but just because you’ve turned the corner into January doesn’t mean you have to draw the blinds, lock the door and become all socially inept. Do yourself and your friends a favor by throwing a party when everyone least expects it. Any old excuse will do. If a friend or family member celebrates a birthday in January or February that’s the ideal launching platform for a party. Anniversaries will work too. Or if there are no auspicious dates on your late winter calendar, improvise. Hold a party on January 21st to celebrate the fact that it’s only 60 days until the start of spring. If all goes well you can do a follow up on February 21st to celebrate the fact that it’s only 30 days until the start of spring. Who knows? Your “anticipating spring” parties might become an annual thing and the social event of the winter.
Plan a Vacation
While bright, cheerful flowers, birdies at the feeder, Anticipating Spring parties and exercise will go a long way toward making winter survivable there’s no substitute for actually leaving the icicles, dead car batteries and long underwear behind for a while and heading off to someplace warm. Spending a week in South Beach or splashing through the surf in Phuket, Thailand will recharge your batteries, rejuvenate your soul, open your eyes and provide memories by the bushel. It doesn’t have to be the most lavish vacation you’ve ever taken either. And in the wake of Christmas spending, it probably shouldn’t be. But you know what? That’s fine. In fact, it’s often the most low key, simple journeys that turn out to be the most rewarding because the pressure is off and you can just kick back and relax.
The winter blues can be very real but they don’t have to be inevitable. Take the above tips to heart and who knows, you may find yourself sitting by the pool in summertime wishing winter would get here so you can really enjoy yourself.