This time of year is particularly grey and cold, especially here in New England. The temperature is rising slightly, yet the sky remains overcast and cloudy. Along with the clouds comes the tendency to hibernate and stay indoors. We rarely see our neighbors and go out only if we have to. It is the time of the year when the doldrums of winter really set in and we put our heads down and try to trudge through the long stretch to spring. The enthusiasm we had at the beginning of the year has all but melted away and we are overcome by the weather. But, this time of the year does not have to stop us in our tracks and leave us feeling like cave dwellers.
When we don’t get outside or engage in social activities, we experience many different side effects. Some of the effects of social isolation are depression and loneliness, which can make us feel unloved. The lack of interaction can cause us to have a skewed perspective about our surroundings and situations as we work through a challenging time. We lose connections to those that may be most useful to us during such tough times. When we come home from work and stay inside on the sofa we are also less active, which can lead to unwanted weight gain. As we gain weight, we get more depressed. The more depressed we feel, the more we indulge in emotional eating. Staying inside prevents us from taking advantage of the benefits intended of fresh air and vital sunshine when the sun is actually shining.
Here are some tips to help you push through the grey and to thrive mentally, physically and emotionally during the winter:
- Embrace the cold. Find things to do that allow you to get out and enjoy the weather. Try activities like cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing and ice-skating. Make sure you have the appropriate clothing to enjoy all that nature has to offer.
- Brighten your day with color. Be intentional about adding color to your day. Wear bright colors. We may naturally gravitate towards darker colors in the winter, but be deliberate in choosing vibrant colors. The bright colors will elevate your mood as well as others.
- Supplement with vitamin D. Without the necessary sun exposure, we can become vitamin D deficient. Insufficient vitamin D can lead to depression as well as other health problems. Good sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, sardines, and eggs. You can also purchase a high-quality supplement.
- Make time to read. This is a great time to elevate your mood by reading things you enjoy that may also encourage you. Consider joining or starting a book club to increase your opportunities to get outside and socialize.
- Spend time with friends. Schedule special outings with your friends so that you are able to remain connected.
- Find a hobby. Consider your interests and find a class that serves those interests. Not only will you experience new sources of enjoyment, but it also gives you an opportunity to meet others and build new relationships.
- Start a project. On those days when you cannot get out, find a project to focus on. Find something around the house to occupy your time, mind and energy.
- Enjoy comfort foods. Take the time to experiment with different soups and stews. Make foods that are warming and uplifting.
- Consider light therapy. During the long, grey winter, sitting under a sunlamp or getting light therapy can significantly improve your mood, especially if you are suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder.
- Enjoy a warm fire. If you have the opportunity, enjoy the warmth and comfort of a fire with friends.