Winter can be a trying time for a lot of people. The days are shorter, temperatures are lower, and bills are higher. So here are some wonderfully easy ways to beat the winter blues.
Seasonal affective disorder hits many people hard when the winter weather kicks in and, even if you don’t suffer from it, it’s hard not to feel a little down when you’re waking up, and walking to and from work, in the dark. It’s no fun when the hem of your trousers is soaking up all the wet weather, when you can’t remember the last time you felt your fingers and toes, when your nose could win a Rudolph-lookalike competition, and when your skin is flaking off your face.
The harsh conditions can also make it more difficult to get out and about, leading to feelings of isolation and a touch of cabin fever. And even when you do venture outdoors, the crammed shops and streets don’t exactly make for a calm experience.
So here are 14 effective ways to beat the winter blues:
1. Set up a cosy corner
Pick a spot where you generally feel most relaxed, and set about making it as comfy and cosy as you can.
Add in some cushions and a fleecy throw, have some warm layers and fluffy socks at the ready and, if that’s your thing, keep a stack of books nearby. Pop in some snacks, a drink, an external battery for charging your devices, the remote control, some decent lighting, and anything else that means you only have to leave for bathroom breaks and bed. If there’s a draught, invest in an excluder or some heavy curtains.
The idea is to have at least one area in your home that’s completely winter-proof so that, when you need some extra comfort and warmth, you have a little hidey-hole to escape to.
(Bonus points if it’s a blanket fort.)
2. Run a hot bath
I’ll admit that baths aren’t my thing, but I know a lot of people swear by them. As soon as you get home, strip off and sink into some hot bubbles. Drop in a bath bomb, light candles, grab a glass of wine, read a magazine, scrub behind your ears, and just generally let the cares of the day wash away. Once you’re all done and your muscles are nice and relaxed, dry yourself off, lather on some luxurious body lotion, and escape to the little nook you set up for yourself in #1 above. And don’t forget to…
3. Eat hearty, wholesome food
Winter weather is for stews, casseroles, pies, soups, and other warm, filling foods. I’ve nothing against salads but, at this time of year, they’re not going to hit the spot quite as well as a hearty stew. And there are plenty of vegetarian or vegan alternatives out there, so don’t feel your options are limited. Ditch the soggy sandwiches for lunch and opt for hearty soups instead. Not only will they heat your body from the inside out, but the extra calories will keep you going through the chaotic Christmas season.
4. Keep it light
I don’t know about you, but the darkness can leave me feeling very lethargic. There’s something unnatural about getting out of bed when you can barely see anything, and it’s hard to be high on energy when the sun goes down before you’ve even finished your work shift. Combat it by making your environment as bright as you can.
Make the most of the small amount of daylight there is by throwing open blinds and curtains and exposing yourself to as much of it as possible. Even sitting by the window or taking a brisk walk on your lunch break can make all the difference.
Then, once the sun goes down, switch on lights and lamps, light candles, and close the curtains so you can’t see what it’s really like outside.
If you can, make the light as “natural” as possible by eschewing fluorescent glares in favour of softer tones. There are lots of inexpensive “daylight” bulbs out there so consider switching to those temporarily, or when your current bulbs blow. There are also great wake-up lights* you can get so, at a certain time in the morning, they’ll start to brighten your bedroom, making it easier to wake. (It’s also a damn sight more natural than being wrenched from your bed by a blaring alarm.)
* Affiliate link which means, if you buy through it, I'll get a small commission for referring the sale (at no extra cost to you). Thank you kindly.
5. Wrap up warm
This may sound obvious, but I’ve suffered through too many winters without a decent pair of gloves or a hat that covered my ears. (In fact, one year I treated myself to a pair of fluffy ear muffs and got the piss ripped out of me. But y’know what? I’d rather be warm and ridiculed than cold and shivering.) Even when I step indoors I tend to throw a dressing gown on over my clothes, and swap out my shoes for fleece-lined slippers.
Buy a decent winter coat, put extra blankets on your bed, invest in a hot water bottle or electric blanket (I wouldn’t be without mine), and stock up on thermals and fleece-lined errrthang! (Ladies, if you’ve never worn a pair of fleece-lined tights, you don’t know what you’re missing.)
6. Keep hydrated and moisturised
The cold weather can play havoc with your skin so it’s important to take care of it if you don't want it to end up cracked and sore.
Like so many things, you should always work from the inside out, so stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. (Don’t like the taste? Jazz it up with a splash of juice.)
If you use skincare products, switch to richer, more nourishing moisturisers, use a good lip balm, and always keep a small tube of hand cream on… erm… hand.
7. Keep active
As my (fictional) heroine Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”
There’s very little as satisfying as working up a good sweat. In addition to the physical benefits, the mental gains are huge too. I’m not going to go into all of them here — they’ve been well documented and we’re all aware of them — but one of the biggest (for me, at least) is the sense of pride. There are very few situations in which you won’t give yourself a big ol’ pat on the back for getting your body moving and the blood pumping. It gives you a great sense of achievement, and alleviates the guilt associated with binge-eating your way through every biscuit tin and box of chocolates in the house. (Been there.) And it helps you sleep better at night.
Honestly, as long as you’re being careful, there are no downsides, and it can even be done by just dancing. Which leads me to…
8. Play your favourite music
It doesn’t have to be festive (though a blast of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” couldn’t hurt), but pick your favourite tunes and turn up the volume. Dancing around the room and singing into a hairbrush are optional (but, in my experience, worthwhile) extras.
9. Phone a friend
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others if you’re feeling a little low. Even a quick chat with a trusted friend or family member can be a big boost. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up on all their news. If schedules and the weather will allow it, organise to meet up in person.
But even if you can’t get out of the house, online forums, Facebook groups, Twitter chats, etc. are a great way to reach like-minded people who’ll help ease any loneliness.
10. Indulge in a favourite pastime
When we’re feeling low, it can be easy to slip into a state of listlessness, where hours slip by unnoticed. Then we scold ourselves and feel guilty for not getting anything done. And so the cycle continues.
If this is you, try to be more intentional with how you spend your time. List all the things you love to do, and then slot them into your schedule as often as possible. Give yourself something to look forward to on a day-to-day basis.
If something is thwarting your efforts (the inclement weather, for example), figure out other ways to enjoy the pastime without actually participating in it by, for instance, researching new tools and techniques, reading up on its origins and history, finding online discussions dedicated to the topic, etc.
I may be biased on this one, but it’s very soothing and therapeutic to lay out all your thoughts in black and white before you.
This can be anything from a to-do list, a journal entry, the outline for that book you’ve got inside you, a shopping list, a recipe you want to try, stream-of-consciousness writing, a brain dump, notes on an interesting topic, a letter to a friend…
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to empty your mind of all its thoughts, worries, fears, and tasks can really help alleviate a lot of anxiety.
Mental monsters can multiply exponentially; those down on paper have boundaries beyond which they can’t roam.
And everybody loves receiving a handwritten note.
Take some time out to sit in silence. If it’s your first time doing this, you’ll find it difficult so start off with just 60 seconds. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Breathe in, breathe out. And repeat.
It sounds simple, but your mind will start to wander. Don’t get frustrated, just notice that it’s starting to stray and gently nudge it back on track.
It takes a lot of practice to cut through the outside noise and mental chatter, but it’s worth it for the clarity of thought you’ll have afterwards. Anytime I feel frazzled, unmotivated, or just plain down, I step away from the stress, sit in silence for a few minutes, re-centre myself, and come back out swinging.
To read my post on how I practice mindfulness meditation, click the picture below:
13. Help those less fortunate
Yes, it might be cold and dreary, but some folks have no roof over their head or food in their belly. If you see a homeless person, buy them a hot meal. Bring some presents to a children’s hospital, gather a group of friends and sing carols at a nursing home, volunteer at a soup kitchen, call in on an elderly neighbour, or simply donate some items to a local charity, food drive, or animal shelter. One of the best ways to help yourself is by helping others first.
14. Make sunny summer plans
It may feel like it’ll never be warm again but, sure enough, the sun will eventually shine stronger and brighter, and you’ll be back to your old self. To keep you going in the meantime, give yourself something positive to focus on and work towards. Maybe book yourself a nice little trip for spring, or go all out and book your summer holiday. Make a ‘warm weather bucket list’ of all the things you’ll do when you can ditch the winter duvet and slip your feet into sandals once again.
When it comes to beating the winter blues, it’s important to maintain not just your physical health but also your mental wellbeing. Keep yourself warm, well fed, cosy indoors but still connected with the outside world, and engaged in relaxing and entertaining activities. Depression is a dark place, so keep your eyes fixed firmly on the light.
With a full stomach, a full heart, and a cosy nook, you’ll get through the winter and, before you know it, see the sun peek out from behind the clouds once more.
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