Brightening The Winter Blues

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff


It is that time of the year again! In the Northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter, the cold dark nights seem to engulf us. Some people love winter and relish every minute of it- good for them! But many of us feel inexplicably "blue" during this time- a biological consequence of diurnal animals faced with dwindling daylight. Winter has the tendency to put a damper even on people who are normally cheerful and optimistic- it is quite common to experience mild depression; feeling of tiredness and lethargy and moods that are slumped over. This mild depression can cause immune function to ebb, resulting in colds and coughs and more misery. Here are 10 tips for those who are battling the cold weather blahs and the winter blues. Many of these have helped me immensely in adjusting to the winter in North America.

1. Soak up the sunlight: Many of us leave for work in the dark, return home in the dark, and spend the day in enclosed office spaces, experiencing almost no sunlight at all. Make an effort to soak up some natural sunlight whenever the sun comes out. Taking short walks outside during the lunch break, or scheduling outdoor activities during daylight hours on the weekends could relieve the feeling of being cooped up indoors. Open curtains and blinds to let as much sunlight into the home as possible.

2. Set a sleep schedule: Some of us tend to oversleep during the winter months because the sun rises later than usual. Oversleeping, and fluctuations in the sleep-wake cycle can contribute to the blues, so it helps to sleep no more than 8 hours a night.

3. Nourish your body: For many people, feeling blue is associated with cravings for junk food. Instead of chips, cookies and candy, eat complex carbohydrates like whole-grain rice and pasta to satisfy the need for comfort food while giving your body a steady source of energy. Nuts and fruits are good options for healthy snacks. We tend to drink lots of water in summer, but often forget to do so in winter. In fact, the dry weather and indoor heating systems can leave the body tired and dehydrated, so remind yourself to drink plenty of water.

4. Get moving: Exercise is an all-natural way to get an endorphin high. All forms of exercise can life the mood and help one break out of a lethargic slump. Regular exercise is a good way to limit the weight gain that commonly occurs in winter.

5. Brighten your surroundings: For me, looking around at everyone dressed in bulky winter clothing in brown and gray shades adds to the drab look and feel of life in winter. Winter is the time to break out of the sober colors and dress in something bright and cheerful! Another way to bring some reds and yellows into your life is to dress your home with colorful throws and rugs. Lighting candles in the evenings can bring warmth and cheer into the home. Indoor plants can provide some welcome greenery to the eyes.

6. Stay busy: During the winter months, the evenings sometimes seem to stretch on forever. This is a great time to do all the things that you never seem to have time for- catching up on reading, doing a time-intensive craft project, taking some online language lessons, or whatever you never got around to doing all year. Make a winter to-do list and give yourself some luxurious me-time.

7. Make the best of the season: Try to change your point your view and think of winter as a season with unique possibilities. What other time can you snuggle on the sofa with a mug of piping hot cocoa? Try to participate in some of the winter activities in your town-there might be some winter festivals, or concerts, or an ice-skating rink to enjoy. Until the New Year, most places are buzzing with holiday fever and that can take one's mind off the dreariness of the season.

8. Socialize creatively: For me, the slump of winter often starts in January and February, once the holiday season is over. But the bitterly cold nights when it is not too much fun to go outside are still great for getting together with friends. Movies, hearty home-cooked dinners, board games can all brighten up the evenings. One cold night, a friend arrived at a get-together with a stack of poetry books and we took turns reading poems- everything from Dr. Seuss to Pablo Neruda!

9. Prepare for spring and summer: Take your mind off the dull weather by thinking of the warm seasons that lie ahead. Perhaps you could read some gardening books and plan for spring, or browse around for some great summer vacation deals. Or start book-marking recipes to try when the spring and summer vegetables start rolling in.

10. Whine a little: A little whining can be quite therapeutic! Talking about the weather once in a while helps me get the crankiness out of my system. Call a sympathetic friend who lives in some warm sunny place and tell her/him how jealous you are. A few sympathetic clucks might help you feel better!

Finally, listen closely to your mind and body. For those with mild seasonal depression, tips such as these can help in staying active and happy over winter. But if the symptoms are severe and are coming in the way of your normal life, don't hesitate to see a qualified medical professional to see if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Your doctor might recommend a therapeutic light box, which delivers a dose of intense light and helps a good proportion of SAD sufferers. Have a cheerful winter, everyone!

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This post was contributed by Nupur from One Hot Stove


What a fantastic post Nupur, thank you. Although I know some of this stuff I so frequently don't do any of it. I think I might print out your list and stick it on the fridge as a reminder!

November 28, 2007 at 3:28:00 PM GMT+1  

Great post! Especially up in dark and cold Scandinavia, where I live, it is so important to remember to get all the light and brightness in winter whenever you can get it. It's no wonder Scandinavians are in love with lamps, candles and room lighting. I have another hint - put a lamp on a timer in your window so it is lit when you come home! It will brighten your day with a warm and inviting look. Instant happiness every evening!
It makes me smile every year when December starts and every window is lit up with christmas candles...


November 28, 2007 at 4:00:00 PM GMT+1  

no. 11: go skiing.

bee said...
November 28, 2007 at 11:05:00 PM GMT+1  

Great post Nupur! This past weekend I was in a museum standing in a spot where I had a good view of a lower level and noticed that everyone was wearing black and grey. I was wearing a pink sweater and feeling like a fish out of water! But you're right - a little color is a good thing!

Cathy said...
November 29, 2007 at 2:41:00 AM GMT+1  

Great suggestions! For me, the "darkness" starts when we go off Daylight Savings Time, but by the end of December I'm adjusted to the short days.

November 29, 2007 at 4:57:00 AM GMT+1  

Amanda, thanks! I know what you mean...we may know this but not always remember to practice it :)

Jokergirl, oh, I can't even imagine what winter is like is Scandinavia! I love the twinkling lights of the holiday season too :)

Bee, true! Only, skiing can be expensive for some people, so I tried to stick to a list that is cheap or free :D

Cathy, yes, the black/grey/blue/brown color palette seems to be so popular with winter clothing. I think you brought in some cheer with your pink sweater :)

Lydia, I never do adjust to the short days, and am always dismayed that it is so dark by the time I get home from work!

Nupur said...
November 29, 2007 at 12:20:00 PM GMT+1  

If it's a cold and wet winter the blues can really get to you. Your tips are brilliant - I also find nice cheerful music brightens the spirits. Soeren and I love singing out loud to songs in the car. It always gets us into a great mood.

Meeta K. Wolff said...
November 29, 2007 at 9:27:00 PM GMT+1  

All excellent ideas, Nupur!

There's something to be said for the changing of the seasons.

I have lived in New England most of my life, and hope to be in Northern Michigan for the rest of it. As difficult as winter can be, if I lived in Florida, I would surely not appreciate spring as I do now :)

Thanks for a great cheery post :)

Linda said...
December 1, 2007 at 3:17:00 AM GMT+1  

Last week, I bought very nice winter coat from Wilsons Leather store through

Anonymous said...
February 2, 2008 at 10:01:00 AM GMT+1  

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