“Don’t we all get a little sad sometimes? Why would the winter season bring us down?”.
For those who know all too well the experience of feeling “blah” during colder seasons, it often feels similar to experiences of sadness, demotivation, changes in sleeping or eating habits, and just general fatigue. For some, the winter blues are related to holiday stresses. During that time, there are countless expectations placed on us, from buying dozens of presents, to family visits, and social events, which can be overwhelming. It is believed that the winter blues can be tied to our body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm, which interacts with changes in daylight to regulate our sleep, mood, and appetite. During winter days, we experience shorter times of daylight and longer nights, which leads to our natural circadian rhythm becoming disrupted. But fear not! The biological aspect of the winter blues certainly doesn’t mean it’s an inevitable situation. Let’s explore the different ways we can cope with our winter blues, and encourage a better experience during the winter.
1. Getting that warm sunlight!
There are slight changes in our daily lifestyle that can help increase our exposure to sunlight as much as possible during the wintertime. We could start by waking up at a time close to the time the sun rises, which would allow us to utilize every bit of sunlight available. When we do wake up as early as possible, we would then open our blinds and curtains for as long as the sun is shining. The sun is powerful, and has the capacity to greatly boost our moods!
Scheduling the time to take a walk outside, even if for just 10 minutes, can significantly enhance our mood during our day. Be it morning walks or mid-day walks, we can put up our favorite music playlist, an enjoyable podcast, or call someone to chat with, and fill ourselves with the fresh winter breeze while basking ourselves in the warm sunlight.
2. Treating our body right
Enhancing our lifestyle and slowly adding factors that improve our health would help in getting that energy we may lack during those winter days. During winter, we usually associate that heart-warming comfort food with unhealthy nibbles. It’s the easiest choice but it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. We can work on balancing our diets to include more healthy comfort eats to ensure we’re eating for nourishment.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene is also one of the needed small changes and it isn’t just restricted to getting our 8 hours of sleep, but also includes having the right quality of sleep that we need. Simple lifestyle changes that enhance our sleep quality include working out, cutting down on caffeine before bed, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
I have personally found it really effective to maintain a night-time routine, where I get my face cleansing and lotions on! But to each their own. One may enjoy reading a book before bed, or journaling while having scented candles on. Whatever suits you, as long as it is a set routine with specific timings, it can go a long way in improving your sleep quality during the winter.
3. Keeping your mental health in check
Self-care! Mental health check! Treat yourself! It all sounds amazingly helpful, but how do we go about that? There are countless ways to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves that little extra love. One way to do so during the wintertime is to balance our social activities and gatherings. It’s important to keep in touch with those close to our hearts and avoid isolating ourselves due to the cold and sometimes demotivating weather, but it is just as important to set healthy boundaries and decline social gatherings if they are getting too overwhelming. Another helpful action we can take is scheduling enjoyable activities, especially those we can only engage in during the winter. From special recipes we enjoy during that time (I definitely would have lentil soup all day every day if I could) to certain destinations to visit such as Luxor and Aswan or Alexandria.
4. Deep breath in … deep breath out
Simple stress-relieving activities are always needed for when it gets too much to handle. We can each choose the activities that personally help us improve our mental wellness. I would go for a 10-minute yoga YouTube video because any kind of movement gets me going for the day. Others might prefer breathing exercises, journaling, or coloring. The options are endless!
5. Gifts and festive spirits!
Please keep in mind that one of the most important things to have in this time is self-compassion. It is definitely easier said than done, and I know the feeling of being too hard on myself all too well. It’s easy to resort to feeling bad and unaccepting of our negative thoughts and feelings, but it’s important to remember that these thoughts and feelings are just that; thoughts and feelings that are normal and essential to the human experience. Allowing ourselves to observe these thoughts as well as feeling and expressing our emotions goes a long way. One of the many ways to do so is by writing down our thoughts as we are having them with no filter whatsoever, or even expressing them in any art form: drawing, painting, dancing, and many others.
And to end, I will leave you with a self-compassion playlist that has helped to lift my mood when I'm feeling those pesky winter blues: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-love-and-war/201401/the-self-compassion-playlist