Spring is a time for rebirth, summer brings fun in the sun, and autumn offers us nature’s color dance . . but then there is winter. With frigid temps and dark days that make you want to drop all responsibilities and get cozy, it’s often hard to find your groove in winter.
The Winter Blues
Half a million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a temporary depressive disorder that arrives as the days begin to shorten. Three quarters of these sufferers are women. The condition often involves anxiety, irritability, and apathy. Approximately 15 percent of the population struggles with a milder form of winter blues.
I, myself, have been plagued with this issue for as long as I can remember. Though the older I get, the better able I am to manage it. In spite of this inexplicable sense of sadness, beauty and joy can still be found. Following are some of the ways I have found to keep smiling through the frigid air.
1. Let the Light In
If you are one who suffers, the simplest thing you can do is to open the blinds and let the sun shine in. I find myself in much better spirits when I’ve been spending my time in a lot of natural light pouring in. So I definitely wouldn’t recommend holing up in the basement this time of year.
2. Light Therapy
It may seem odd at first, staring into a light box; but this is one of the methods that has been very effective for me. You don’t actually stare straight at it. I like to turn it on for 20 or 30 minutes soon after I wake, while I’m doing some work. Just being in front of it feels like soaking up some “rays” to get you through the rest of the day.
For me, the morning light from the box is also like tricking your brain to wake up when outside all you see is a sunless sky. Here is the light box that I use, very reasonable in cost, and not a large contraption by any means.
Winter’s sedentary ways are definitely not helpful in fighting the blues. Getting one’s heart rate up in whichever way you prefer, can be significantly therapeutic.
The endorphins we receive when we engage in exercise are mood boosters for sure. Not to mention it keeps us in shape and feeling productive. Here are some ways to remain active, even in the midst of two feet of snow.
- Find an online hiit class that you enjoy. I am loving Jessica Smith TV and her wide variety of workouts.
- Try a type of fitness class that is new to you. I would love to try Orange Theory Fitness or The Barre Code.
- When planning weekend activities with the family, try to make them active ones. Bowling, mini golf, roller skating and swimming are some of the many options out there.
4. Get some Fresh Air
While indoor movement is a wonderful remedy, outdoor movement is even better. On top of the cardio, you also receive natural sunlight, if the day is clear. Not to mention that extra boost of vitamin D, and air that is actually circulating, with less pollutants.
As long as you dress warmly and don’t overdo your exposure to the freezing temps, you will be fine. Here are some fun ideas for outdoor movement during the cold season.
- Find an ice skating rink nearby
- Try out snowshoeing
- Skiing; either cross country or downhill
- Fun with the kids: sledding, fort building, snowball fights, etc
- Shovel some snow
- Or just grab some hot chocolate, a blanket and a good book!
5. Maintain Interests
I know that for me it is all too easy to just surrender to passive activities like tv watching or internet surfing once the daylight hours start to dwindle. I think lack of productivity only leads to more feelings of sadness though. So I try to remain engaged in life, by keeping up participation with things that bring me joy.
For example, writing for this blog is my greatest passion right now. I’m also pursuing other writing opportunities as well. Besides that, I just signed up for a pottery class, something I’ve always wanted to try.
Think about activities and events that generally excite you when you aren’t feeling down. Then go for it. Even if your sadness is hindering your motivation, there’s a good chance just doing it will lead to feeling it, too.
6. Stay Connected
I know my wintertime blues tend to make me want to stay to myself more. While that is fine at times, especially if you tend to be more of an introvert on a good day, I also think it’s good to push yourself a bit on occasion.
Feeling a sense of support from others can be a huge relief. Especially if you know of friends or family members who also struggle with these blues. I just started a women’s social circle where we meet monthly and also maintain a connection online. Because it meets at my house, it’s a lot harder for me to “flake.”
A meditation practice can be a great source of melatonin and serotonin, for boosting your mood. I find the following meditation particularly helpful for managing SAD.
I love Youtube’s Yoga with Adrienne, and she happens to have a yoga sequence specifically geared toward fighting off the winter blues.
Putting together some type of gratitude practice can be immensely helpful this time of year. Read all about how to implement your own gratitude practice here.
There are several supplements you can take that often help ease the symptoms of SAD.
- Vitamin D is often a deficiency
- Omega 3 is good for supporting a healthy brain
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a precurser to Serotonin
- St John’s Wort
- Melatonin for sleep disruptions
- B Vitamins
- Kava kava
11. Find Joy in Holiday Fun
If you can, get into the holiday spirit with your kids. Find some fun themed activities that take place locally. Or do something that reminds you of the joy you felt as a child yourself. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.
12. Plan a Getaway
If nothing else seems to do the trick, and you have some room in the budget, book a trip to somewhere sunny. Go with another mama friend who’s also struggling. A little break in the monotony of dark, dreary days may be all you need to power through till Spring.
Here are some more affordable sunny winter destinations to pick from.