Do you feel a little sad during the winter? Maybe you’re not even really sure how you feel. Maybe you just know that something isn’t quite right and you don’t even really know why or exactly what’s wrong. If so, keep reading! I’m going to talk a little bit about why this could be happening and share 10 ways to deal with winter blues.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a form of depression thought to be caused by the shorter days (fewer hours of sunlight) and colder weather (resulting in more time spent indoors) that fall and winter bring. Some people suffer a mild form of it (sometimes called “winter blues”), and others become extremely depressed and have a hard time functioning normally at all. Those who suffer from a more severe case of SAD often sleep for an excessive number of hours and have extreme cravings for carbohydrates–often leading to weight gain. Others have trouble sleeping at all (though they feel exhausted) and don’t have an appetite. Those who have “winter blues” may simply feel uninterested in things they used to enjoy, and they may feel tired and lethargic most of the time.
If you often feel tired and “down” during winter, there are some things you can do to help yourself feel better. It’s not necessary that you feel tired and draggy and disinterested until spring! Below I’ve listed some steps you can take to help combat SAD or the winter blues. They may sound simple, but sometimes even a simple change can bring improvement! NOTE: If you feel severely depressed and hopeless or feel like you might harm yourself or someone else, please see a doctor right away!
1. Get as much light as you can.
If you love candles, try burning candles in the areas where you spend the most time. Not only are they pretty to look at, but they fill the air with lovely scents that can help lift your spirits! Even if you have young children and can’t safely burn candles in your house, you can use electric candles to get the same lovely flickering look, and you can diffuse essential oils to enjoy the fragrance. Himalayan salt lamps can also be a good candle alternative.
2. Get together with friends as often as possible.
When we feel tired and depressed, it’s hard to force ourselves to go to the trouble of getting ourselves and our children up and dressed to leave the house. We just don’t feel like making the effort! But forcing yourself to be social is often a great way to feel better. There are many times I don’t want to keep social commitments when I feel blue, but I’m always glad I did once I arrive. After all, it’s not really sunlight that brings happiness! It’s the people we love.
3. Keep it simple.
When you’re getting together with friends or relatives, keep the planning simple! You probably don’t feel like planning an elaborate party (Unless that’s what makes you happy. In that case, do it!), but it’s fine to meet up somewhere casual, like going for a walk at the park or browsing shops to do some window shopping. Or, if you choose to have someone over or go to someone else’s house to visit, make the meal planning easy by having soup and sandwiches or store-bought food. Many grocery stores now have a deli section or offer hot plates to go. Play some games with the kiddos or sit and drink coffee while you watch the kids play. Encourage yourself and your friends to get together by making it something that’s easy to do!
4. Do something for someone else.
If possible, have your children help you do something to brighten some else’s day. We all know that doing something nice for someone else often makes us feel just as good (or better!) than it makes the other person feel. Help an elderly neighbor or relative clean her house or go grocery shopping. Bake cookies and take them to someone who would enjoy them. Make a freezer meal or two and give them to someone who lives alone and might not take the time to cook for himself. Not only is this teaching our children to love and care for others, but it also gives us something meaningful to do with our children during a time that they might feel bored and need something constructive to do.
5. Go outside as often as possible–even for a short time.
When the days are short and cold, it can be tempting to stay indoors except when it’s absolutely necessary to venture out. Instead of spending time thinking of ways to stay inside, think of ways you can go outside–even for a few minutes at a time–just to get some fresh air and enjoy whatever sunlight there is. If possible, walk around the block or down the road even if you have to bundle up to do it. If you live in an area where it snows, go outside and have a snowball fight with the kids. Go on a hike together (even a short one). Take a nature walk. Or simply play in the back yard together.
6. Take time to do something indoors that you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time.
If the weather truly is too bad or too cold to be outside, spend a few minutes each day working toward a goal you have. If you’ve been wanting to declutter the house, take 15 minutes a day (set a timer if needed) to declutter a small space and make progress toward your goal. Want to write a book? Spend a few minutes each day jotting down some notes or writing a few lines. Want to learn how to paint or sew or cook? Find some great YouTube videos or online classes and do it! This is something you can do with your children too! Think about something you’d all like to learn to do, and learn together.
7. Indulge! (Occasionally)
While you don’t want to get in a habit of eating sweets and desserts all the time, it’s perfectly fine to indulge now and then. Grab the kids, pick your favorite cookie recipe, and spend a day baking and decorating cookies or another favorite treat. Enjoy the time having fun and cooking (and cleaning the kitchen) together.
8. Keep a gratitude journal, and teach your kids to keep one too.
Sometimes we simply forget how blessed we are! One easy way to be happy is to pay attention to the positive things in our lives instead of dwelling so much on the negative things. Keeping a gratitude journal is a way to teach our minds to thing more about the good things. Make it simple. Use a notebook to write down something (or more than one thing) that you’re thankful for each day. Do this as a family or have a separate notebook for each person. Do whatever works for your family. If you have little ones, let them draw pictures of what they’re grateful for. Or you can write for them as they dictate.
9. Get some exercise.
When you feel depressed, you just don’t feel like exercising. But I’ve found that on the days I least want to exercise, I benefit the most from doing it. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym, lift weights or do some strenuous workout. You certainly can, but it’s not necessary. Just go for a brisk walk, dance with your children, jump on a mini indoor trampoline, or look for some good YouTube videos with simple stretches and strength-building routines. Have your kids exercise along with you! It’s a great habit to instill in them, and you’re more likely to keep at it if you have some accountability.
10. Eat healthy foods.
Yes, it is ok to indulge now and then, but you’ll feel better if you eat healthy foods most of the time. Instead of eating too much sugar and starch, eat as many whole foods as possible. And when you do crave carbs, try to make the smartest choices possible. One way to make this happen is by planning ahead. If you wait until you’re hungry to decide what to eat, you’ll make bad choices since you want whatever is fast in that situation. Think ahead of time about meals and snacks so you’ll be prepared before you get too hungry to make a good choice.
If you’ve tried everything you know to do and still feel depressed or hopeless, see a doctor! Your doctor may prescribe supplements, medication, or even some kind of light therapy to help you. It’s important that you seek help if you need it!