Polar Vortex… Arctic boundary front… Polar Vortex II… Deep Freeze Nine.
How many more ominous names can the weather people conjure up for winter? (Note: I made up the last one.)
It’s winter. I get it.
And I’m hating it.
Make that hate-hate-hating it.
It’s seems more wintry this year with the seemingly endless onslaught of snow, harsh winds, biting below zero temperatures… a legitimate Jack Frost on steroids.
I blame Jack for turning me into a prisoner within my own home. And mind. Losing sight of any vestige of a rainbow.
The winter blues have gripped me with its frigorific clutches.
But not without a fight. I’ve been thrashing against it. Willing it away. Obsessively checking weather bug on my phone—had I accidentally entered the zip code for Antarctica?
In a moment of weakness, I became addicted to Candy Crush, which has a way of making time go faster and numbing the brain. Could I Candy Crush my way through the next few months and come out the other side into Spring?
Earlier in the month, it snowed. And snowed. It wasn’t letting up. Temperatures took a nose dive. We had a so-called reprieve into the double digits (nothing above 20-something), then back down into unbearable, Siberian-like conditions.
Running is one of two activities essential to my sanity. Yoga is the other. Thanks to poor road conditions, I haven’t been able to run outdoors. I tried once a couple weeks ago, but it started snowing and getting icy, so I had to walk. Frustration! A couple of times, the snow has come close to ruining my yoga plans.
Yet… winter can be beautiful. Magical.
I need to find some reset buttons—we all need ‘em. But during winter, the buttons are more difficult to find under all of those layers of clothing.
And who wants to feel those chilly fingers on their button?
I’ve come up with a list of ways to mix up the winter blues and expose a cheerful rainbow (or at least a shift into some of the warmer color spectrums):
1. Write every morning. Let it all out. Complain to your heart’s content from pen to paper. Explore the way you feel and why. For a writing exercise, list out all the negatives of winter. For every negative, come up with a positive. Writing actually affects the brain in amazing ways!
2. Exercise. No matter what the weather, find a way to move. Jumping jacks, push ups…try a free online yoga class if you can’t afford studio prices. Walk up and down the stairs. Run in place. Try out a health club—most will give you one free visit to try it out. Take a walk or run outdoors—wear layers and walk fast and it won’t be bad at all. Use common sense, of course. Running on icy roads, for example, is not sensible.
3. Get a full spectrum light. Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that hits in the fall and winter months when the days get shorter and we’re getting less exposure to natural light. A full spectrum light mimics outdoor light and can be effective in treating SAD. I have a full spectrum desk lamp and turn it on for 30 minutes every morning while I’m working—whether it’s psychological (I can almost imagine myself at the beach when it’s on) or not, I don’t care. It works.
4. Stay away from processed foods. Many of us have a craving for carbs, especially the processed ones, during the winter months. But by eating healthy—fruits, veggies, whole grains—we hamstring our longing for the bad stuff.
5. Dance. Turn up the volume on some tunes, let go and move. Move it and groove it. If you’re like me, you’ll want to do it alone away from who you imagine to be Dancing with the Stars type judges. Free yourself! Make up some silly moves and laugh.
6. Laugh. Read some Calvin and Hobbes. Get a dose of Ron Burgandy. Get together with old friends and reminisce about all the silly things you did in your youth. If that doesn’t do it for you, stand in front of a mirror (or sit across from your kids) and have a fake laughter contest. Eventually, some real laughter will arise from the bowels of your sorry soul.
7. Release some oxytocin. Sometimes called the “love hormone,” oxytocin may help ease depression. It’s released when you hug or kiss someone (even a pet). It’s winter, so what better time to cuddle?
8. Get outside! Face the winter head on. It is not thine enemy. It is simply one of our seasons here on Earth and part of life (unless you’re lucky enough to live in California). Embrace it! Run through the snow, hold it in your hands. Taste it (disclaimer: do not taste it if it contains animal droppings or is discolored). Notice the sounds and how they’re dampened by the chill. Search for signs of wildlife.
9. Travel to a warmer destination. If your pocketbook allows, get the hell outta dodge. Even a long weekend can bring rainbows into focus.
9. Treat yourself to a spa experience. If you can’t afford a getaway, why not get a massage or pedicure? Enjoy a sauna somewhere. It doesn’t have to be a fancy “spa” to reap some benefits of feeling nurtured.
10. Curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Enjoy this time. Read a trashy novel. Or decide to learn something new and find books about it. Be sure to have hot mug in hand. Light a candle (make sure it’s soy or 100 percent beeswax—otherwise it’s like burning diesel fuel). I like to make green tea. I add 1/4 teaspoon raw cacao plus honey, vanilla and milk to taste. Yum!
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
~ Albert Camus
Do you see the rainbow yet?
Please share the ways you mix up the winter blues!
* If your depression is severe, you should consult with your doctor.
Adapted from a piece I wrote for elephantjournal.com.