The holidays have passed, and while we might let out a big sigh of relief and look forward to a more “quiet” month of January, we might also feel a bit “down” as we settle into the coldness and darkness that winter brings. As I write this, I’m looking out my window at a very dark night and I’m wondering how it can only be 7:30pm! No wonder I feel ready to get into bed and get some sleep – all of the signals are telling me that it’s night time! While it’s been a mild winter compared to some that we’ve experienced here in Maryland, any winter brings with it shorter days, longer nights, freezing temperatures, and snow and ice that make it difficult to get around, and sometimes difficult to continue the routines that we usually enjoy.
With all of these conditions, it’s natural that we might feel differently in winter than we usually do. Everyone can start to feel a bit of cabin fever, and our mood might be affected as well. We might feel sluggish, bored, or just generally “down” as a result of having fewer activities and taking in less sunlight than we do during other months. (For some individuals, the winter months bring a more serious condition called “seasonal affective disorder”, commonly referred to as “winter depression”. SAD can be a serious medical condition and I encourage you to talk to a therapist in MD and/or a doctor if you feel you are experiencing persistent, strong depressive symptoms – such as feeling sad or moody, losing interest in important things, weight or sleep disturbances, etc. – during the winter, or any time. We at Lindsey Hoskins & Associates are happy to help!)
Finding creative ways to keep ourselves busy and engaged can help us to ward off the “winter blues”. Below are some of the things that I have personally found helpful, along with some other suggestions to keep active and content throughout the cold winter months:
- Embrace winter! – Do you love building snowmen with your children? Ice skating in the city? Going out for hot chocolate with a friend? Great! Some winter activities are very special, and it can help to spend time doing uniquely “winter” things and enjoying what the season has to offer.
- Take advantage of extra time – Because there aren’t always as many outdoor activities or social activities during winter, take this opportunity to focus on you. If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, take a look at last week’s blog post and try hard to reach your goals! If you’ve been meaning to clean out your closet, or your garage – take some time to do that on a quiet weekend morning. Using the increased down time wisely can help you to feel productive as well as give you more time to enjoy more favorite activities when it becomes warm again!
- Cozy up at home – So often, we say to ourselves or others “I’m so tired!”. Especially during winter, when we naturally want to sleep more due to less daylight, give yourself permission to relax. Cozy up at home with a warm cup of tea or coffee, a book, a blanket, and some candles – and enjoy a chance to de-stress, and perhaps allow yourself to go to bed early once in a while!
- Plan fun social activities – Spending time with friends and family doesn’t have to stop after the holidays. Making an effort to see the people you love and to enjoy time with them can definitely help winter be more fun for everyone. Try inviting friends over for a board game night, having a “watch party” for a football or basketball game, or having a potluck dinner. Any excuse to get people together will give you something to look forward to!
- Get some exercise – We all know that exercise not only helps us feel better physically, but it also can boost our mood and energy levels. Making an effort to exercise and be more active, even in small ways, can especially help us in winter when we tend to be less active in general. If you usually like to exercise outside, try that on days when it’s warm enough, or try taking a new yoga, spin, or another class when it’s just too cold.
- Soak up the sunlight – Research shows that one of the reasons we feel more “blah” during the winter is a reduction in the amount of sunlight we take in, which provides us with Vitamin D. Finding ways to get as much sunlight as possible can reduce the impact of this. Try taking a walk at lunch on a day that’s warmer than usual (with proper winter attire, of course), leaving your curtains and drapes open to allow natural light to come in, walking outside during the middle of the day (if possible) for a few minutes – anything that will allow you to see the sun.
What do you like to do during the winter to ward off the “blues”? Share your favorite ideas with our therapists in Bethesda in the comments below!