Most Folks are About as Happy as They Make Up Their Minds to Be.
The cold, dark days of winter have descended on the Midwest like a wet dreary blanket. My bones creak and my muscles shiver, reminding me each time I step forth from the comfort of my home why I want to move to a warmer climate. Every year as the autumn leaves fall from the trees, I can feel the beginnings of winter despair creeping under my skin.
Though I’ve never been officially diagnosed with SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is a fact that every winter I have to buckle in tight and begin a proactive battle to maintain my good mood and not give in to an annual winter depression. The urge to hibernate like a bear and not come out back out again until spring is overwhelming and I have to take diligent, active steps to make sure I don’t give in to that desire.
I know I’m not alone. I’ve had several conversations with friends- on Facebook and in person- discussing our strategies and challenges fighting the winter blues. We each have our particular do’s and don’ts, the tried and true and the somewhat out there experimental efforts. You may be one of us who fights the daily winter fight…officially diagnosed or not really DX’d with anything you can put your finger on, but who knows that the moment the time change comes, the gloomy days are not far behind.
I’ve learned to fight back.
My good mood and Inspired Living plan for life are too precious for me to give up on one fourth of the year just because Mother Nature wants to don her winter coat. I can crab all I want about how I hate to be cold and how my poor back hates shivering… but Old Mother Nature is a stubborn woman and she isn’t gonna change a thing for me. So in between the actual aches and pains, I’ve had to come up with a winter game plan to make it through these cold, dark, challenging Midwest winters. I won’t pretend they are foolproof. My family will still listen to a fair amount of winter grumbling of “Why do we live here?” But at least this list keeps me happy, on my feet functioning, and not hiding away in my winter cave. Perhaps it might be of use to my fellow winter survivors as well.
Ten Ways to Fight off the Winter Blues
1. Color Me Happy. That first glittering blanket of white snow is breathtaking. Unfortunately, after the magical display has fallen, we are left with a gray, muddy mountain of crud that stretches on for months. I find myself averting my eyes to hide from the dull ugliness. One thing I have learned about myself as a creative person is that I crave beauty all around me. That gray blanket feels claustrophobic and cuts off my creative energy. I fight back with color. Goodbye gray, brown and black clothes, it’s time to break out the vibrant shades of purple, blue and pink that feed my soul. Throw pillows and blankets in vivid hues, decorative displays, fresh flowers in bursts of delightful color, walls of sunny yellow, windows with lots of light pouring in. Everywhere I can fight back with my favorite colors, I do. I take pictures with my camera, I get out my paint and work with vivid colors that nourish my creativity. I bathe myself in color.
2. Sing Me A Song. Music soothes the savage beast and heals the sorrowed soul. Turn up the happy tunes! Music is a powerful weapon against depression if you use it right. This is no time for Country’s latest top ten hits of “He Left Me High & Dry, Now I’m Gonna Die…” We want the music that makes you tap your feet, break out singing in the shower, wiggling while doing the dishes, and clapping your hands in response. It’s almost impossible to stay in a bad mood when the right tunes are playing! Make your own Emergency Play list to beat the Winter Blues. It’s the fastest way to change your mood.
3. Write Me A Memory. Journaling is a powerful way to change your mindset. Spend time every day writing about what you are grateful for, what little (Or Big) gifts and surprises have come into your life in the day and what you have accomplished. I call this my GGG Journal. Gratitude’s, Gifts and Gains. I like to shoot for 5 of each day, but don’t put any pressure on yourself. The point is to become aware and observe the positive energies in the day instead of being focused on the negative. And- when you know you are looking for things to write down, your mind becomes more aware of the blessings coming to you. You live more gratefully. Did you know it is virtually impossible to feel depressed and grateful in the exact space and moment in time? Tune in to some gratitude. It will make you smile.
4. Dream Me A Lullaby. Nothing makes it easier to be a crabby sourpuss than to be overtired and overworked. Here come the carb cravings, the extra pounds, the blood sugar surges, the Martyr Syndrome, the body aches and pains, lowered immune system…you name it, nothing good can come from being overtired. It doesn’t matter what time of year, it’s a bad idea. But when fighting Winter Blues, it’s a disaster! GO TO BED! And once you are there, you need to work on the second part, and that’s actually getting a good night’s sleep. Just because you lay in your bed counting sheep and staring at your ceiling doesn’t cut it. If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, fight back. Talk to a doctor, come up with a plan to get some healthy ZZZ’s. Your health is WAY too important not to.
5. Feed Me Some Comfort. Healthy Nutrition is an integral part of feeling strong, energetic and happy. The notion of ‘Comfort Food’ is often thought of as Mom’s Mac & Cheese or Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. But true comfort food is food that makes our lives feel healthy, active, happy and comfortable in our clothes! Winter Blues is responsible for a lot of weight gain for some people. Fight back with a rainbow of colorful food, bright and fresh- a variety of visually and nutritionally pleasing food that will nourish not only your body, but your mind and soul as well. Consider eating small portions more frequently and don’t forget to drink your water! Winter is dehydrating. Whatever your water intake was during the other three seasons, our winter dry season is causing your body to beg for even more. Some of that tired sluggish feeling and headache may be the beginnings of dehydration. Drink up!
6. Make Me Some Action. Remember that slumbering Cave Bear? He’s not getting any thinner. And neither will you if you follow his winter plan for good health. Keeping active not only helps us to keep those winter pounds off, it helps to release ‘feel good’ endorphins-the happy chemicals that help our brain produce a sense of well-being. It doesn’t have to be extreme either. A moderate amount of a variety of activities can produce amazing results
7. Play Me Good Times.Laughter is good medicine. Ever tried to be depressed while you are laughing your head off? Watching a funny movie? Listening to a good joke? Studies show that laughter can lower blood pressure, relieve chronic pain and may even improve your immune system. Take some time to go out and play and have a good time! It’s good for you!
8. Remind Me to Help Others. When we are moody and depressed, it’s easy to forget that there are other people with other troubles much more serious than our own winter blues. By turning our attention away from the mirror and focusing outward on others beside ourselves we shift our attention away from our ‘feel sorry for ourselves ‘ predicament and change our mood to one of gratitude for all that we do have.. Helping others is not only a charitable, gracious thing to do for them, but in the long run, the one that may end up helped the most is….us.
9. Give Me the Green. In a study by a researcher, Roger Ulrich, Mr. Ulrich discussed the many benefits of plants and greenery on patients recovering from illness, stress and depression. He writes, “There is considerable evidence that restorative effects of nature scenes are manifested within only three to five minutes as a combination of psychological/emotional and physiological change.” His study focused on benefits of greenery and gardens in a hospital setting. How much more helpful then will they be in our own home environment? And if you are one of those unfortunate souls who believe they have a brown thumb, don’t despair, your local landscape company and arboretum is ready and waiting for you to take a local field trip walk to peak at some garden green this winter.
10. Let Me Have Light. Of all the known winter blue busters, this may be the best known and most commonly discussed therapy. There are a number of light treatments and gadgets available to fight SAD. I’m not qualified to say how they work, or which is best, I’ve never used any of them. You can let us know in the comments if any of them have worked for you. I do know that I have had great success with natural outdoor light and making sure that I get an adequate amount of vitamin D in my diet- especially during the winter months. Being a cold weather HATER, it would be easy for me to hole up in my cave and not come out until spring. I make it a point to move my computer next to my big picture window and work next to a big sunny window and to make sure I get enough time outside. Even if it means I am outside in my Jacuzzi with only my head above the water! I did a lot of researching articles to try and find an exact amount of time we should be exposing ourselves to sunlight to chase away the blues or uncover the perfect dose of vitamins for you. The bad news is that information doesn’t seem to exist. Instead there is a plethora of conflicting and confusing information all disputing the last. The latest research out even indicates that high doses of Vitamin D and Calcium may have harming effect after all. We can’t win! The best course of council seems to be moderation in all things once again. Get some sunshine, eat a healthy balanced diet with calcium and vitamin rich foods and don’t over do it!
It’s your turn!
I know that there are many, many other Winter Blue busters that I have run out of time for here. It’s your turn to share your favorites in the comments below. What are some of the ways you survive the long dark months of winter? Come on! Help out your fellow sufferers and share!
Photo By: Wendi Kelly