Each year, right around the end of October, I notice my body feeling more sluggish, I have less energy, and my thoughts become more pessimistic. This is the winter blues.
As my mind ponders the loooong winter that lies ahead, I dream of warmer destinations and start to wonder why I live in Wisconsin. When this negative mood shift sets in, I know I’m starting to feel the Winter Blues.
The Winter Blues are very common — many of us feel more gloomy during late Fall to Spring. The decrease in sunlight and colder temperatures can lead us to spend less time outside and feel a stronger pull to hibernate in our homes for the winter.
It’s also important to know that the Winter Blues is different than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of clinical depression and can be treated through a combination of psychotherapy, light therapy, and medication. There can be overlapping symptoms between Winter Blues and SAD, so reach out to a health care provider if you need additional support.
As I felt the Winter Blues begin for me recently, I knew I needed to make a plan to feel better. Here are some remedies for the Winter Blues, so you can keep living your best life even as the temperatures turn (and stay!) cold.
Tip #1: Shift Your Perspective
There are many ways to shift your perspective, but I tend to gravitate towards evidence-based strategies such as reframing thoughts + gratitude.
Reframing your thoughts begins with having an awareness of your negative thoughts. As those negative thoughts pop up, it’s important to have a phrase or two that you can say to yourself in place of the negative thoughts. For example, if the thought “I don’t want to do anything today” pops into my mind, I can reframe it by thinking, “What would make me feel good today?” or “I can get through this.” Instead of dwelling on all the negative aspects of winter, try to focus on the positives.
Next, gratitude is a great way to change your perspective for the better. Take a couple of minutes in the morning and write down (or think about) 3 things you are grateful for, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. There is mounting evidence that gratitude is a super effective way to feel better in the moment, and this practice may even have lasting positive effects on your brain.
Tip #2: Move Your Body + Go Outside
Yes, I know it’s colder than cold outside! Bundle up in double or triple layers and take a quick, brisk walk outside. Grab a sled or ice skates and bring your kids for some outdoor fun. Getting out of the house is good for everyone! As you spend time outside, try to look up at the sky, the trees, or the snow falling. Observing nature helps reduce stress levels as you beat the Winter Blues. And when you return home, warm up with some tea or hot cocoa.
Tip #3: Reach out to Your Community
When you experience the Winter Blues, you may feel the pull to stay home. Make it a point to spend time with others, because being in close connection to others makes you feel better in the long run. Plan ahead and get some time on your calendar to meet up with friends or plan a dinner with your neighbors. Text a friend if you’re going somewhere with the kids. We are hard-wired to rely on connection with others and feelings of belonging. Reaching out to others will decrease feelings of loneliness, and the experience of isolation in the cold winter months.
Tip #4: Soak Up Some Sunshine
Reduced time in the sun leads to a lack of Vitamin D, which we need for our bodies to function well. A lack of sunlight is often connected to feeling those Winter Blues. How can you get more time in the sun when you’re indoors more often than not? Seek out a seat in a sunny spot in your house or at a cafe and stay there for at least 15 minutes. Another way to soak up the rays is to go to the Milwaukee Mitchell Park Domes or the Butterfly Exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum where you’ll get a great burst of sunlight mixed with warmth.
Mama, you can beat the Winter Blues and enjoy the winter season! Like most things in life, it just takes a little planning, effort, and support.