Wellness

How To Beat the Winter Blues

The holidays are over. The long winter is looming ahead of us. Anyone else have the winter blues? I sure do!

So what do we do about it? Here are 8 ideas that I put into action that may work for you.

 

1. Schedule activities

Force yourself to get out of the house at least a couple of times a week. I signed my daughter and me up for weekly Kindermusik classes for the next 12 weeks to get us out of the house every Saturday morning. Not only that, but my plan is to WALK to our music class as it’s fairly close and when dressed appropriately, winter walks aren’t THAT bad. We’re also doing a four-week art class with another mom and her little man. It’s possible I wouldn’t leave the house all winter if I didn’t need to. True story. But that does NOT make me feel good. Commitments help get me off my butt and out into the world, which always (I mean it, ALWAYS) makes me feel GOOD!

 

Dottie and Kindermusik
Dottie enjoying Kindermusik

2. Get outside

The only way to enjoy winter is to embrace winter. Get out for a skate outdoors. Try snowshoeing. Take your dogs for a walk (or borrow someone else’s dogs – I have two great dogs you can take ANY time). I’m hoping to get to a ski hill at least a couple of times this winter. I don’t ski often, but when I do I’m soooo happy. I know these suggestions all sound super active, but they don’t have to be that physical. Just a leisurely stroll through your neighbourhood can suffice. The point is to get some fresh air and a tiny bit of sunshine/vitamin D. It’s said that we need 20 minutes of natural light a day in the winter to beat the winter blues. So there ya have it. Natural light is best, but you can also use light lamps as a boost at home or work. Did you know that your local library may rent you one? Our local library does! Read about the program here.

Dogs and Snow
Frosty and Bella having a ball at Point Pleasant Park.

3. Plan a trip (or an adventure)

“We can’t all afford to go down South, Amanda!” you may snark at your computer screen. By a trip, it could be a cabin weekend away close to home, one night downtown at a hotel, anything really! The beauty of this is that it’s not the destination that is all that important, it’s the ANTICIPATION. I read in a book this week that anticipating getaways and adventures releases Dopamine (that feel good stuff in your brain) and that we feel happier planning and looking forward to vacations than we do actually ON our vacations! Talking and conspiring with your partner or family about your upcoming adventure is bonding and fun.

Reading this made me think. I tend to just float trip to trip in our lives. We travel a lot and I can get overwhelmed by the minutia of travelling, the anxieties if I plan too much. I started a year or two ago just flying by the seat of my pants. Once we got to our location, I would figure out my top 3 things I wanted to do and do them. Honestly, this works well for me, but it means I don’t get that feel good rush of anticipation!

Someone recently asked me online how to do this, how to have enjoyable anticipation for their family vacation. She was a mom who, like me, would get stressed about her responsibilities preparing for going away with her family. I suggested that she throw herself into thinking about what she would like to do ALONE while away and carve that time out with her partner/family. My hubby JW knows I need alone time. My mom does too. When we were away together last year, they both tried to give me at least an hour a day where I could just go off and have a cappuccino at a café or read in my room. JW also has told me ahead of time that when we go away this February he plans to get up with Dottie for their morning walks like he did last year. This means that I can sleep in, get ready for the day, or go to yoga in the mornings. It’s easier if I know when and how my “me” time will happen; That way I can look forward to it and plan for it! So it’s time for me to start planning and anticipating our diving trip to Bonaire this February! EEEEE!

Bonaire Diving
Me – Diving in Bonaire last year.

4. Stay connected

Schedule friend time or it won’t happen. You know it’s true. Once we are adults busy with work, hobbies, family – it’s a HUGE effort to see our friends! I decided it was my winter duty to gather some moms together to eat, bitch and be merry once a month WITHOUT KIDS! As a stay-at-home mom who goes out and about with my daughter all the time, I see moms… but trying to talk while juggling our littles is a challenge. Always. So, kid-free mom time is high on my list this winter! I know it’s tough to take initiative and organize meet-ups but it’s a surefire way to beat the winter blues. Plan a girls night, guys night, couples night, or family gathering. Just do it.

Just me & my mom friends… Hanging out.

5. Stay active

I stopped going to the gym this summer. My life was busy with other exciting ventures and I was tired of the gym routine. It also wasn’t high on my priority list because I was walking SO much every day with my daughter – walking to the library, walking to cafés, walking to parks. Now that winter is here, it ain’t so easy to get out and about.

For the sake of our mental health, we may need to be more proactive to fit physical activity into our weekly lives when the cold hits. This doesn’t just mean the gym – it could mean many things! For example, I joined an adult beginners ballet class. Yup. Amanda, who has never taken a dance class in her life and struggles greatly with choreography is taking a ballet class. Ridiculous. It’s going to be grand. Here’s a great blog post about what you can do this winter instead of the gym – this blogger is HILARIOUS.

Me, I actually LIKE the gym. Weird right? But I only like it when I hire a trainer to cheerlead me/bully me through workouts. I can afford this. Maybe you can’t. But a workout buddy can help in the same way. On the other hand, some people love the alone time of a workout. Or they work out at home vs the gym and just GIVER. Whatever works for you, man! Just get MOVING, get your blood pumpin’ and get those feel-good chemicals flowin’ in that brain of yours!

6. Eat healthy

Caffeine, booze, sugar and simple carbs are going to lead you on an emotional rollercoaster if the winter hasn’t already got ya down. Take it easy on the caffeine as it can affect not only your mood in the day but your sleep at night (did you know chocolate and headache medicine have significant amounts of caffeine? Check out this list of hidden sources of caffeine.) Alcohol in the evenings can also reduce your deep sleep, leading you to feel tired the next day, leading you to feel down, leading you to have a couple of glasses of wine again THAT night and so on and so on. While sugar can give a great boost in the moment, is the crash later worth it? Take a look at your diet, add in some great complex carb comfort foods and cook up a huge batch of some good’ol squash soup or heart warmin’ chilli.

Vacation Beer
I think I’ll give up alcohol until our Bonaire vacation!

 

7. Enjoy the simple things

Take your time sipping that hot chocolate. Smell it. Taste it. Feel it.

You may be reading a lot about mindfulness these days. Being in the present moment is incredibly healthy for mind, body and spirit. One “easy” way to start your mindfulness journey is to focus on your five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing). If you are sitting in front of a fire, enjoying a hot drink, or out for a winter walk – feel the warmth or coolness on your skin, taste the smoke in the air or the chocolate on your tongue, listen to the crackling of the fire or whistling of the wind, look closely at what’s in front of you, what do you smell? We all know this is much harder than it sounds, but if you find your mind drifting from the task, just gently pull it back.

Vienna
Savouring mulled wine in Vienna

8. Help others

The best to way to ALWAYS beat your blues to is to get outside of yourself and help others. You can formally volunteer or just take a friend in need a casserole. Buy someone a coffee. If you admire a friend or acquaintance, TELL THEM! Make someone’s day.

 

Bonus – Get Help

As always, if you are still feeling blue for weeks on end, if it’s affecting your work, home life, or health – please seek professional help. While these suggestions can be helpful for clinical mental health conditions, professional services may be needed.

 

Now get out there and flourish this winter!

How do YOU plan on embracing your winter? I’d love to hear from you!

Yours in wellness,

Amanda Rae

7 Responses

  1. Love all of this Amanda….definitely the getting outside part…so important…and makes winter bearable…but so hard to do sometimes. I love the saying…”There is no bad weather…just bad clothing”. 😉

    1. Thanks for reading Jen! And I agree… it’s all about dressing for the cold, wet, and slippery! That bit of vitamin D daily is KEY to getting through winter.

  2. Amanda, these are all excellent observations and antidotes to the winter blues. I used to get in a funk every year in winter, but with age I’m getting smarter and have managed to start enjoying it in the past few years. My prescription is as follows: Outdoor running 3 times per week no matter what the weather, a healthy plant-based diet that keeps the weight off and the ticker ticking well, making music in a group (I can’t explain why this is a special kind of magic, but it really helps with an uplifting sense of tribal belonging and achievement), no alcohol, which is important for people like me with a predisposition to unhealthy consumption behaviours, and keeping my relationships simple and focused of being supportive and loving. I will confess that this year feels especially great, due to my recent retirement from a cubicle farm.

    It’s unfortunate that some seem unable to escape out from under the cloud of clinical depression. Talking to them can be like throwing a life ring to drowning swimmer who just ignores it, or worse, pushes it away. For those folks, medical intervention is often the only hope.

    Vitamin D is pretty much a necessity for most people in northern latitudes from November until May. I think any excess just gets peed away, so there’s certainly no harm in topping up during the winter.

    And finally, those new $100 aluminum snowshoes are like the best winter invention in decades. A game changer! 🙂

    Cheers!
    John

    1. Great actions to stay happy and healthy this winter, John! Amazing! Congrats on the retirement. It sounds like you are making the BEST of it 🙂 Amanda

  3. Amanda, I’ve been lolling about like a beached whale telling myself I’m going to do this or that, change my unhealthy habits, exercise more, create more, and then I don’t. I could blame grief I suppose, but for how long? This has inspired me to go out today, with my dog, for a short walk. I’m also going to spend one hour decluttering. I’ve been putting off going downstairs to the storage locker to look for a book but shall procrastinate no longer. I aspire to be more like John Van Gurp. ?

    Happy Winter!

    Theresa

    1. I’m so glad this post had such a huge impact on you Theresa. Thank you for not only reading, but putting these ideas into ACTION! xoxo

  4. “I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.”

    Mark Twain

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