Three Practical Ways to Fight the Winter Blues
The winter blues are upon us—the days are shorter and the dark nights longer; the cold dampness permeates through the thick layers of clothing deep into our bones.
How can this battle ever be won?
Every year we naively think it won’t happen to us again and yet it does (for me it hits hardest in January/February.) We need to get smart and plan ahead for the inevitable and when it comes we’ll be prepared with a plan. We don’t need to fall victim to it if we apply the following practical ways to fight the winter blues: prepare a means to distract, devote time to something worthwhile, or indulge in a delight.
Music & Movies :
Often we choose music or movies that reflects our mood. During the dreary winter months it is better to choose something that will distract you into a better state of mind. Select music that makes you want to dance and a movie that makes you laugh out loud. Sing, play an instrument, and express yourself in a creative way.
Create an atmosphere around you that lifts your spirits and makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Fill your space with things that will make you smile, or even laugh, when you see it. Have comfy blankets and pillows to snuggle up with on the couch. If you’re a little crazy like me, keep your Christmas tree up till after Valentine’s Day redecorated with hearts and bows—it will cheer up your place and keep the spirit of the season going through the months of bill-paying!
People in northerly climates need more artificial lighting in winter to counteract the hours of darkness and lack of sunshine. By making energy-efficient choices in the purchase of light bulbs, using higher wattage and differing styles can really have a big impact on your mood. Put up strings of LED white lights on the upper edge of the walls along the ceiling or above cupboards to fill the room with ambiance. The lights will draw your eyes upward and illuminate the dark, depressing spaces distracting you from your negative thoughts and feelings.
There are lots of ways to plan fun. What a better distraction than to play!
- Include other family members and/or friends in board games—plan a game night once a week/month.
- Use Wii or Xbox 360 Kinect to actively play a wide variety of games or sports.
- Play favorite games online with others—word games, board games, interactive games, etc.
- There are hundreds of games that can be played on a Nintendo DS or other hand-held electronic gaming device—your imagination is the limit.
Playing games can be a lot of fun and if you include others, it becomes a pleasant social interaction as well as a positive mental lift.
Devote time and energy to something specific—work on a project, plan to spend time with friends, take a course and learn something new, or help others who are in need; these are all ways to shift the focus to a worthwhile activity.
Pick an exciting project that will be energizing.
- Crafts—cross-stitch, crochet, knit, quilt, scrapbook, sculpt, paint, sew, etc
- Write—write, write, write (journal, articles, stories, poems, e-book, etc)
- Jigsaw Puzzle—colorful, cheerful, and challenging is important.
- House—redo a room (paint, redecorate, etc), de-clutter and reorganize some neglected space.
Find a cozy coffee shop with a fireplace and spend a couple of hours each week with a friend. A good visit with a dear friend over a delicious cup of coffee or tea can be very refreshing for the soul. If you enjoy the outdoors, plan to meet a friend for a walk and then stop for a hot chocolate and a warm chat after. The key is to find ways to connect with friends and talk about things that are meaningful to both—this will help lift the lonely feelings that come with the winter blues.
If you are self-motivated and enjoy the comforts of your own home, take an online course. There are lots to choose from whether you participate in a special interest workshop or work on completing your degree.
Local Community Centers or Colleges often offer adult learning courses on a number of subjects that might be of interest. Is there something new you’ve wanted to learn for a long time? A skill you’ve wanted to master? If you plan ahead, the winter is a good time to keep your mind active in a successful endeavor.
Help Others :
This is a great time to help the less fortunate by volunteering at a Soup Kitchen or Homeless Shelter to serve a hot meal or assist with shelter during the cold winter months. Sometimes helping others can put a new perspective on life. If your community doesn’t have enough aid for the homeless, and you have the time to do it, come up with a plan and present it to the local churches or community groups to see if they want to help out—one night a month designated to provide a free hot meal, or shelter on the coldest nights of the winter. There are many different ways to get them involved if you have some creative suggestions and are willing to help out wherever you can.
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Find ways to pamper yourself. While this will be unique to the needs of each individual, even the smallest effort is a necessity. There are ways to bring comfort into your life at little or no cost—a warm blanket, a hot drink, a special scent, a favorite recipe, or a hot bath. Each of us craves that one thing to look forward to in our day or week.
In a cold climate, it is imperative to find ways to stay warm. A warm house or apartment is possible to achieve with some simple adjustments. Not everyone can afford to make big changes in this economy so less costly choices are imperative. One thing I used to do was to put plastic on the windows in the winter to keep out the draft and put a rolled-up blanket on the floor at the base of the door. If you have expensive electric heat, buy energy-efficient radiators that will cut your hydro costs in half. Make sure you have warm, cozy clothes that make you feel good. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a cold house and fighting to stay warm all evening—it is a waste of good energy that could be used for something better.
There are so many scents that lift a person’s mood…experiment and find the one that works for you (and your family of course!) There are essential oils that can be mixed to provide just the right fragrance for what your needs are. Sometimes something as simple as simmering orange peel and cloves in water on the stove can permeate the whole house with a warm and cozy aroma.
Food & Drink:
A favorite food or drink has been a way to bring comfort on a cold, wintry day since the beginning of time. Everyone has their favorite comfort food for when they’re feeling down. If they’re unhealthy choices and you feel guilty about eating them, find a healthier version full of flavor and enjoy! There are lots of cookbooks or online recipes for healthier versions of the old favorites.
If you can afford it and have planned ahead, this is a great time to take a vacation to a warmer location to get away from the cold weather entirely. If you can’t afford it, plan a stay-at-home vacation. Look for things throughout the year that remind you of your favorite vacation spot and in January, after Christmas, decorate your home to become your vacation oasis. Who says your home has to meet the interior design criteria for that season. Express yourself! Make it what YOU want it to be. Your friends and family might think you’re a little strange at first, but the idea might catch on more quickly than you think.
There Is Hope!
There is hope for people who experience the winter blues. Become aware of your own personal yearly cycle—when you experience your greatest lows and when it is the hardest to stay positive. Think about what would make you feel better during those times and then plan ahead so getting through it will be easier. Each of us has one or two things we can do to help ourselves through this hard time of year. Find a distraction to deflect the dark feelings, devote time to things that help lift the spirit, delight in the things that bring comfort and relief. Remember this too shall pass and the winter blues will be but a memory for another year.