Fighting Winter Funk
Waiting for Spring
Most people don’t seem to mind the cold winter weather when there are holiday parties to attend, special food to eat, adult beverages to consume, and gifts to be exchanged. Then along comes January and February, and winter just seems to drag on and on and on. What’s a person to do?
First of all, know that you’re not alone. Up to 20% of the population suffers from some form of weather woes, known medically as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Yes, it’s a real thing. Shorter days, colder temperatures, and less sunlight all team up to give us the blues. Fortunately, there are several things you can do about it (besides going back to bed).
I feel the need for a small disclaimer at this point. What I’m discussing is a temporary, seasonally-related feeling of the blues. For actual cases of depression, you should seek help elsewhere. For the rest of us, please read on.
Get your mind out of the gutter, and remember the topic. Expose yourself to sunlight, either the real thing or the man-made equivalent. Sunlight is important because it increases the brain’s release of the hormone serotonin, also known as the “feel-good” brain chemical. You can purchase an artificial sunlight box (used in light therapy) for under $50. The real thing is better, but do what you need to do to increase your exposure to light. You can also take vitamin D3 supplements, sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin produces it in response to sunlight.
If you either can’t or don’t want to go outside, consider just sitting near a window when it’s sunny outside (obviously with the curtains open). You might even take a drive, provided the weather isn’t all that bad and the road conditions are safe. Just get out there!
Even our dog doesn’t like to go outside and walk when it gets below freezing outside. I completely understand how easy it is to just sit, and look out the window at the blowing snow. But you don’t really have to go outside to get more activity. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, dance, walking up and down stairs, and stretching are all activities that can be done inside. I’ve done Tai Chi Yang style 8-form in a space of about 10 feet by 3 feet. Yoga can be done in even less space. My point is, you have no excuse that there’s no room indoors for at least some form of activity.
Visit Family and Friends
You remember the old saying, “misery loves company?” As it turns out, all you need is a deck of cards, some warm beverages, and one or two (or five) other people to turn that frown upside down. Bring out the cheese and crackers and you’ve got yourself a party.
In today’s Wi-Fi-enabled digital world, you don’t even need to leave home to meet face-to-face. There are so many electronic ways of doing that. You might even consider picking up the telephone, and giving someone a call just to chat. It’s amazing what a mood booster that can be (making sure to call someone upbeat, of course).
Finish That Photo Album
Memories should be cherished. You will be amazed at how better you will feel after taking a trip down memory lane, especially if you have photographs to help you. Even if you don’t create an actual physical album, just going through your vacation photos and digitally organizing them can transport you to another time and place where the sun is still shining.
Help Someone Else
Is there a food bank near you that needs another pair of hands? How about a senior home that could use someone in the recreation center interact with the residents? If you bake, you could bring cookies. If you are musical, you could entertain. Once you start thinking about it, you are certain to find something you can to do help out others. And while you’re doing that, neither you nor the ones you are helping will feel the winter blues.
Plan a Vacation
Here is an activity near and dear to my heart. Next time you are languishing around the house, think of a place you’d like to visit on your next vacation. Research all the options, including how you’ll get there, what you’ll do once there, what you’ll wear, who you’ll visit, and so on. Even if you never actually take the trip, you’ve given yourself a (virtually free) mental vacation.
There are dozens of things you could try to kick the winter blues. I’ve gotten you started on just a few. The main point of it all is to break out of your routine, and try something new. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Have you ever experienced SAD?
© 2018 Carolyn Fields