I am on an eternal mission to create and find happiness, hope and positivity in all areas of life, and I try to share these discoveries on this blog. With this in mind, I have a confession to make: for the past couple of months I haven't felt like myself. I couldn't put my finger on it as there was no particular ailment; no specific symptoms; just a general feeling of apathy, which is so unlike me. Then I remembered how I feel every year during the colder months, and realized that this year's severe winter season was the cause of this dip in my otherwise cheerful mood. So instead of hiding under a blanket until the blooms of April appear, I've created a simple list of ways to overcome the seasonal sadness associated with winter. Consider it my way of accepting everything Mother Nature has to offer... yes, even the Polar Vortex of 2014.
I don't think I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but I do know that the bone chilling temps, weekly snow and ice and the way they both impact my lifestyle are having a definite affect on me; and I know I'm not alone. For those of you who absolutely love winter (you know who you are!), you might find these ideas useful when dealing with the winterphobe in your life.
1. Plan an indoor picnic. This is one of my favorites. I pack my beautiful wicker basket with delicious treats, and clear a place indoors on the floor complete with flowers, colorful picnic blanket and sparkling mint lemonade and invite friends to join in the fun, faux picnic.
2. Surround yourself with bright, natural light. As soon as you wake up, open those shades and draw back those curtains. Exposure to sunlight between 6 a.m and 8 a.m. is ideal. Roaming around in a dimly lit space is a big no-no. A bright clean space is a natural pick-me-up for those sensitive to the early darkness associated with the fall/winter time change. If you don't have a lot of natural light streaming in try using full spectrum bulbs that mimic natural light, which trigger a similar response in your mind as the real thing.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise. We are all aware of the various health benefits associated with working out, but it's even more important to maintain a regular exercise regimen for stress management, to boost energy levels, and to release endorphins which are responsible for that euphoric feeling post workout. This helps combat the sad and gloomy feelings you might experience due to the weather.
4. Stay hydrated, inside and out. Just because you aren't sweating doesn't mean you can drink less water. Aside from the damage that the wind and cold can do to our skin, we also develop habits, such as taking a steaming hot shower or turning up the heat in our homes, which can be drying for our skin. Looking sallow and dry can make you feel unhealthy and tired, so be sure to keep your skin glowing from the inside out: drink water and moisturize.
5. Resist the urge to hibernate. Go out with friends. This one is self-explanatory. Don't lock yourself indoors until April. Going out and socializing also releases those "feel good" endorphins, so it's worth it to brave the cold and squeeze in some face time with your circle; they are your support system, after all.
6. Take a mini-break. It takes approximately 2-3 days in a warmer climate to reverse the effects associated with SAD, so plan a weekend getaway to your favorite warm weather destination. It's been noted that SAD rarely affects those who live in regions 30 degrees of the Equator.
7. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. Caffeine may give you a temporary lift, but it can also cause anxiety. On the other hand, alcohol is a depressant, which can further intensify your low emotions. Opt for chamomile, peppermint or green tea. This will also help curb those heightened carb cravings also associated with the seasonal shift.
8. Meditation. Staying present and in the moment can help with accepting (and enjoying) the colder seasons. I do a short meditation in the morning, which sets the tone for the day. In those moments, I don't think about the weather, or the cold, or what boots I need to wear, or if there will be mass transit delays. Rather, I focus on finding a place of balance and contentment in that moment; a calm place from which I can start my day with gratitude and openness.
This is personally what I do to help with my seasonal slump, however I encourage you to tap into what makes you more cheerful as an individual. Of course if you're feeling deeply depressed, you should seek professional help from your doctor/naturopathic physician.
P.S. A friend recently shared that she experiences seasonal anxiety in the summer. As someone who is absolutely euphoric when summer rolls around, this blew my mind, but to be fair I will definitely address this when the time comes later this year. In the meantime, stay warm!