Living in New England my entire life, I definitely know what the winter blues feels like. There is just something so depressing about getting out of work at 4:30 and the sun is already gone, it’s cold, and most likely your car is freezing from sitting out in the parking lot all day.
The lack of exercise and sun exposure can cause a person to spiral into what doctors call ‘seasonal affective disorder’ with symptoms that mimic bipolar depression such as sleep issues, hopelessness, weight gain, social withdrawal, and just being unhappy and cranky. The lack of sunlight disrupts your body’s internal clock, drops the serotonin levels inside your brain, and messes with the balance of natural melatonin which affects your sleep and moods.
Some doctors will tell you to go out and buy a full spectrum lamp to sit under for 30-60 minutes a day to help elevate your mood. However, if you are anything like me, the thought of sitting in front of an extremely bright light shining in my face for an hour doesn’t seem like something I feel like putting my super sensitive blue eyes through. So instead, I have come up with my own ways to help combat the winter blues.
Stay Active. It’s hard to find motivation in the winter to go out and play in the cold, wet snow… but the quicker you get off your butt and strap those snow boots on, the better you will start feeling. There are plenty of active things to do in the winter, as a child I loved going sledding and ice skating down at the pond in my neighborhood. Building snowmen and snow forts are always a fun group activity to take party in. Snowboarding and Skiing are also the most obvious of the winter sports, but there is also snow-shoeing and even snowmobiling. Do anything that will get you out of the house as much as possible to expose your body to actual sunlight even if it is just a quick 5 minutes on your lunch break at work… get some fresh air! Having a dog is really helpful with this, even in temperatures below freezing; my little monster still demands her two walks every day, so the two of us bundle up and go for at least a 15 minute walk in rain, sleet or snow!
Keep up with your social life. Most of us who have endured a monstrous snow storm can understand why it is such a pain to get out, go see your friends… You have to shovel your car out, clean your car off and then spend twice as long getting to your destination while combating the ice covered winter road. The worst thing you can do when you’re feeling the blues is decide to just stay home alone and watch movies and eat junk by yourself all night. Staying socially active when you are feeling depressed can be quite a challenge, but the benefits of forcing yourself to socialize will help give you an added boost.
Get creative, be productive and do things that you enjoy doing to keep your mind happy and active. I like to paint in the winter, pull out the easel and canvas and go to town exploring my own imagination. Painting in itself can be therapeutic as long as you are not trying to create a masterpiece, in fact Art Therapy has been around since the 1940’s and has been proven to help elevate your mood. Even if you are not a master of the arts, there is nothing wrong with using a paintbrush to help you express your feelings. Pinterest is a great website to find lots of do-it-yourself arts and craft projects that can totally help ease your mind during those long winter days when you feel trapped inside the house.