Winter can be a depressing time of year. The days are too short and the nights are too long, there is very little light and we all go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Add in the cold weather and the storms, and that fact that there are no leaves on the trees so the landscape looks bleak, and there’s really not very much to feel good about. Right?
If you feel down about the onset of the cold season, now is the time to realign your thoughts. The more you dread winter, and all it brings, the more opportunities you’re missing out on. Think positively about winter, and you’ll see that there are endless reasons to feel good about life. Let’s take a look at a few.
Winter may make the world seem like a bleak place but think about what we can learn from nature. The trees shed their leaves, while plants and bushes die back, but only so they can start afresh when the warmer weather comes. Our beautiful flowers and leafy trees retreat, and in their place we can see the evergreens and the berries, mistletoe and holly, and hardy perennials such as lavender. Every plant has its day in the sun.
Take the time to observe the changing environment. You can see through the trees at what is beyond, so the landscape becomes an ever-changing place and source of wonderful inspiration. In addition, once the autumn storms have passed, you’ll have blue skies and sharp cold days, perfect for walking the countryside.
When the weather allows, make sure you get outside when the rare sunlight appears, especially if you’re trapped inside at work. A brisk walk around the block at lunchtime will do wonders for raising your mood, because nothing works as well as natural light, and a little exercise outside is better than nothing at all.
You may be missing salads and leafy vegetables, but late Autumn and the winter offer ample opportunities to indulge in some home cooked favourites. Who doesn’t love a slow-cooked stew? Meat and vegetables in a tasty stock. Freshly made soups. Everything tastes better when it’s been cooked slowly but for longer. Indulge in your favourite pies, with a side helping of cabbage and parsnips. Create your own vegetable curries. Bake some festive goodies and take them around to your neighbours or share them at work. Spread the joy of great food.
As long as you’re eating well and getting enough exercise, there is nothing wrong at all with lowering the lights, lighting a fire if you have one, and a few candles, and then chilling out in front of the TV, or curling up with a good book. These are the cosy, homely evenings we all love. Whatever you do though, don’t hibernate. Keep active, keep accessing the light. Everything in moderation.
Regardless of the temptation to lie in bed for longer, you need to resist the urge. If you sleep too much, you’ll end up feeling lethargic and lacking in energy. It is far better to maintain a similar sleep schedule all year around, regardless of the balance of light and dark in the world. Too much sleep one night may lead to insomnia the next night, and with insomnia comes anxiety and low mood. This is not a pattern you want to pick up.
If you’re suffering with the winter blues, or more seriously with seasonal affective disorder, it is important to access the light as often as possible. One solution can be a light box, which simulates sunlight. Every light box will come with its own set of instructions, but generally you’re instructed to use it for 15–20 minutes in the morning, a foot or two away from you, and pointed toward your face.
You may well be looking forward to numerous parties this festive season, but whatever you do, don’t overdo the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol can drag you down, even if you don’t drink enough to give you a hangover. It may mean you go to sleep better, but you will not be well-rested. You know your limits – stick to them. If you think you’ll be weak, offer to be the designated driver at the party and nurse soft drinks all night. You’ll be glad of it in the morning.
For some people, the festive season is a particularly busy time of year. If the thought of all that running around leaves you feeling frazzled before you even start – opt not to do it. Find ways to give yourself a simpler life. If you have family, explain the problem and ask them for solutions. Don’t force yourself to take on too much, if you run the risk of feeling miserable and tired constantly. Delegate where necessary, cut back if you need to.
It’s all too easy to do away with your social life when the weather is cold and the nights are so dark, but remember we all need some social stimulation. Too much time alone can seriously lower your mood and exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Rather than cancel your social get-togethers, make the effort to have a few more.
Why not start a project that you aim to complete by the time spring comes around? You could do something crafty, such as felting or quilting, or you could write a novel, or take on a photography project. Choose something that will need to be completed over the course of a few months.
It may be that you need professional help if you cannot lift your mood. Never be afraid to reach out to a professional, and have a chat to put your mind at rest, and remember, spring is only a few months away.
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