Scraping the car. Shoveling the walk. Bracing against the wind that is so cold it hurts your face. Trudging through the feet of snow. Closely watching the weather to see if your drive/flight will be delayed. Feeling trapped inside and wondering if it will ever end.
If this sounds familiar, you probably live in a place that has seasons - including winter. Winter can be really demoralizing for a lot of people and can have a huge impact on how we feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is true for most people, but especially people who struggle with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly named SAD).
Now, there are certainly some people who LOVE winter. If this is you, you probably don’t need to read this! But here are some tips for the rest of us :)
Check the forecast. It’s easy to get hopeless and assume that every day of winter is going to be -10 and cloudy. But there are often several decent days in the winter months that may be sunny and/or warm. Check the forecast on a weekly basis to make sure you know when that nice day will be - and then take advantage of it! Take a walk on your lunch break or play outside with your kids. Though these days are few and far between, soaking them up might help you make it through the cold stretches.
Embrace a sense of “cozy”. Winter does have some unique, positive things to offer us and one of those is the feeling of being cozy. Revel in it! Cuddle up with a favorite warm food or drink, soft blanket, favorite pair of ridiculously warm socks, and/or a fireplace. Enjoy the sense of peace that can come when we choose to slow down and be still.
Find some light. Turns out, sunlight is good for us. In the winter months it can be especially difficult to get the amount of sunlight we need. If there’s a sunny day in the forecast, try to make it outside for a little while. Consider talking to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement or using a light therapy box. Check out this article from Mayo Clinic on how to find a light therapy box that’s right for you.
Get into nature. Again, go outside if possible. If not, where are some other places in your area where you can get a dose of nature? Consider taking a trip to a conservatory, greenhouse, aquarium, zoo, or flower shop. Maybe buy an indoor plant that can remind you that despite the fact that everything outside is dead, life continues.
Ease the tension. The cold months can cause us to tense up more, leading to discomfort and pain. Try regular stretching, yoga, or tai chi to release that tension. Consider getting a massage or acupuncture for a deep release. Check out Groupon for good deals!
Resist the urge to isolate. It can be easy to go into hibernation mode and not see other humans during this time, but isolation only makes us feel worse. Use this time to focus on some fun activities and social events with friends. Try planning things in advance so that you’re more likely to actually do them (versus waiting until you feel motivated to leave the house), and so that you have something to look forward to. What can you do in the winter that you can’t do in the summer? What indoor activities can you focus on now, so that when summer comes you can focus more on outdoor activities? Make a winter bucket list and invite friends along. [some examples: ice skating, museums, holiday events, that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, music/comedy/theater show, having people over for a movie/game night, etc.]
Find ways to exercise. Yes, this can be more difficult in the winter when even a simple walk is a feat. Take advantage of nice weather days, and if you can’t exercise outside try exploring workout classes, streamable videos you can do at home, or large indoor areas (conservatory, mall, etc.) where you can get some steps in.
Eat better to feel better. Our natural instinct during the winter can be to turn to comfort foods and drinks that warm our spirits. Enjoy these! But try to balance them with healthy foods and lots of water. You’ll feel better.
Create. Outside, life has come to a bit of a standstill. But you can create new life-filled energy and express yourself by cooking, baking, painting, coloring, journaling, making music, or indoor gardening. You don’t have to be great at these things to do them - focus more on the process of creating than the final product.
There are many situations in our lives that feel unpredictable and we are often unsure if/how they will end. That’s one nice thing about having seasons: we know that winter will end - it always does. So use these tips to help you accept (and maybe even embrace) winter, and know that it is temporary. You can make it through!
If you’re struggling with feeling down and are having a hard time implementing these tips, consider talking with a licensed therapist.