If you find it challenging to get through our long dark winters, you’re probably familiar with some of the steps you can take to alleviate the mood dips that you sometimes feel: get outside as much as possible, use a full-spectrum (happy) light, take vitamin D, maintain good sleep habits and definitely EXERCISE. I’ve found these things to be essential in dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) over the years. I wanted to share some other things that I’ve done that have also helped me stay feeling good in the winter.
This isn’t clinical advice, so it’s good to remember that if you feel sadness and irritability that you can’t shake, talk to your doctor.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Winter is a great time to stretch a bit out of your comfort zone. Maybe there’s a class that you’ve always wanted to take, a new sport to try, volunteer work you’ve thought about doing--regardless of what it is, if it’s new and challenging it can really help boost your spirits this time of year. I’ve been taking an acting technique class that’s new to me, and it is fun, exciting and at times, terrifying. Being a complete beginner at something, going into unchartered territory is exhilarating and fulfilling and might boost your mood and confidence.
I find it tempting to go into semi-hibernation when the weather is bad and it gets dark at 4 pm. Forcing yourself to go out after work or school instead of staying home and watching Netflix may take more effort in the winter, but it really pays off. Go to an exercise class, go out with friends, make that extra effort to stay engaged and connected with people. Being honest with friends and family about how you’re feeling is a huge help as well-- most of the time, you’ll find that many people struggle this time of year and it will make you feel much less alone.
Facebook, Instagram, etc are great ways to stay connected with friends and family who are far away, but I find that spending lot of time online ends up making me feel less connected and more unhappy with life in general. For one thing, it’s a time sponge and before you know it, an hour has passed. This leads to guilt and feeling more stressed about getting everything done. I think it’s also tempting to compare your life with others on social media, and feel that yours comes up short. Trying to limit checking Facebook to once or twice a week ends up being much more satisfying and leaves you more time for fun activities.
PLAN A TRIP
It doesn’t have to be long or exotic, but planning to get out of town even for a long weekend is a great way to feel refreshed and energized. Getting somewhere with more bright sunlight--even if it isn’t very warm-- is a bonus!
Do you have other strategies that help you get through the winter? What special things do you look forward to? We’d love to hear your ideas!