Ever get a case of the winter blahs? It's cold, dark and gray outside, the holidays are behind us, and we still, likely, have a few more winter storms ahead. Hmmmm. Feeling a bit stir crazy and well, just, blah?
From a psychological/medical standpoint, there is actually a name for this. It is called seasonal affect disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is defined as "......a type of depression that's related to the change in season....... symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months". While seasonal affect disorder can be a serious medical condition which may require intervention, I think many of us just have a few 'off' days from being trapped inside with very little sunlight which can effect how our brains function and/or release chemicals. The Mayo Clinic states several reasons for seasonal affect disorder that include 1. A disruption of your internal clock, 2. A drop in serotonin (a chemical which affects mood) and 3. Melatonin levels (a chemical which affects sleep patterns).
O.K., so what can you do to chase away the blues? Well, I decided to compile a list of things to try to chase away those gray winter blahs!
1. Sunlight: If sunlight appears to have so much effect on our moods, well then I guess this would make perfect sense as a first line of defense! Surprisingly, where I live in Colorado, there are 300 plus days of sunshine per year. Luckily there are days sprinkled in the middle of the winter months that can be upwards of 60 degrees and it's the perfect excuse to get outside and feel the sun on your face. For me, this never fails to be an instant mood changer! Even if you can't enjoy a 60 degree day, bundle up in your warmest layers for a nice brisk walk. If that's not possible, how about a drive? Being out in the light might just give your body the little re-set it needs!
2. Exercise: I know, I know. The dreaded E-word. This one comes up all the time. For everything. Because it works! No matter what mood I start in, I ALWAYS feel better after moving around and better yet, breaking a sweat. Find something fun you really like to do and that is how you will incorporate exercise without making it a chore. Everything counts! Crank up your favorite music and have a dance party, race around the house cleaning, go to your local recreation center and go swimming, go to a yoga class, try rock climbing! Skiing! Find your thing and do it regularly. It really makes a difference. Which brings me to the next idea;
3. Try Something New: While routine can feel safe and cozy, it can also get dull and inhibiting at times. Shake up the routine with a little something new. If you already exercise, try a new class. Take up a new hobby where you have to use your brain a little differently or meet some new people. Maybe change up your routine a little. Sometimes if I stay up a little later and get less sleep and it resets my internal clock, so a change in routine may help, as well.
4. Talk to a friend: Seek out your favorite planet people and spend some time with them. You know the people I'm talking about? The ones that you always walk away from glowing? The ones that you think in your head "Wow, they really get me!"? The ones that make you feel lucky to know them? Emails and phone conversations all count! Writing letters counts! Just reaching out and connecting can be so up-lifting. You know what else counts? Making a new friend with new stimulating conversations and interests! Sometimes when you are feeling in a "funk" being social is the last thing on your mind, but just like with exercise, sometimes the thing you least feel like doing is the very one you need! Funks are sneaky that way and may require reverse psychology to trick them!
5. Humor: I'll bet you have heard the phrase 'laughter is the best medicine', right? There is nothing more cathartic than a good laugh. Have you ever laughed so hard you cried? It's the best feeling ever! Not always easy to come by when you are seeing the world through funk colored glasses but we are lucky enough to have access to so much information through technology that surely you can stumble across something to make you laugh! Youtube is always a great resource! What about a favorite old movie that always cracks you up? I re-watch stand up comedy shows and laugh like a hyena even the second and third time around. If you do not have access to these things, not to worry. Pull something funny out of your memory banks! Sometimes I recall something that made me laugh in the past and that does the trick. Before I know it, I've cracked a smile and maybe even busted a gut laughing. Works wonders!
6. Cry: So laughing didn't do it? How about a good cry? Have you ever heard of homeopathy? Well it is a medical science that is based on the principle that "like cures like". In other words you take minute doses of a substance that would make a healthy person sick and use it to treat the person who is sick. Maybe treating funk with funk? A good cry can be as cathartic as a good laugh. Get your tissues, put on Terms of Endearment and have yourself a nice little cry. Maybe music is your thing. I've heard many people say that music can bring emotions to the surface that otherwise are hard to retrieve. Many people experience a sense of calm and balance after a good old fashioned sob-fest! But if cryin's not your thang;
7. Treat Yo Self: If you are a fan of Parks and Rec then you know this phrase well and are probably smiling already! In case you are curious here is a link that makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. Two of the characters on the show have a TREAT YO SELF day. They save up and have a guilt free day to spoil themselves! This can be whatever that means to you! Maybe your favorite latte, a book you've been wanting, a luxurious bath, or one uninterrupted half hour of silence! Give yourself a small treat. Be nice to yourself:) Think of how you feel when you see someone else having a tough day. You would want to do something nice to turn their day around, right? Sometimes it's harder to do those things for yourself when you are in those emotions but try to treat yourself as kindly as your would a favorite friend. After all, you are your very best friend and you know yourself better than anyone else!
8. Reach Out and Touch Someone: In an article by Psychology Today Titled The Power of Touch, the author Rick Chillot cited several research studies in which the participants were blindfolded and told to impart emotion through touch. The accuracy was as high as 78%. They repeated the study in different countries and while it varied slightly from place to place, everyone seemed to be able to do it. Isn't that interesting? Find your favorite person and ask for a big giant hug and feel the love!!!
9. You Are What You Eat: Try to put good nourishing things in your body to help it get balanced. While it is just fine (as I mentioned in the Treat Yo Self section above) to indulge in a guilty pleasure, it probably will make you feel bad to overindulge on junk that will only tax your already taxed body! Treat your body with some super foods that may just fuel your rocket boosters and send your hurtling right out of funktown and into your happy place! How about some sweet vitamin filled fruits like blueberries, kiwis, rasberries, oranges or whatever you like! Maybe some delicious veggies pan fried in some Olive oil and garlic? Look up a new recipe on pinterest to try! Your body will be high five-ing you for it! If you are putting bad fuel into your car it just won't run as smoothly and the same is true for your body!
10: Do Something You LOVE to Do: For me, hands down, art is my happy place. I can easily get lost in the details of sketching and painting (or really any art for that matter). For some, it is long walks in nature, for others, it's cooking. Think of the thing you like to do where you completely forget about time because you find it so engaging. Find your happy place and go there for a while!
11. Throw a Party! Have a "Summer-in-Winter"party. Invite over some friends and have a fun, beach themed party. Not only will you have a chance to be around your favorite people but it gives you a goal to get your house all tidied and come up with a little menu to impress your friends. Sometimes just having a goal to work towards can be just the thing to get you going!
12: Acts of Kindness: Ever done a small act of kindness for someone, for no reason what-so-ever? (If you haven't you should really try it sometime!) It feels so great to surprise someone with a small treat or gesture when they are least expecting it! You never know, you just might have turned a bad day into a good one or at the very least made someone very happy. They in turn might be in a great mood and treat some else with incredible kindness and so on. You don't even have to know someone to perform a random act of kindness. It will still be appreciated and you'll still feel the love. Have you ever seen the More Love Letters website? I linked to it here in case you are curious. It is such a cool concept. You can write encouraging letters to people who have been nominated by friends and family members. Their stories of hardship are included and if you feel moved, you can send them a special message. In the end, the person, who is suffering through some type of hardship, will receive a stack of supportive, encouraging letters from people all over the world to show them that they are loved. Ain't love grand? I think love is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more it grows!
Well on that note, hope you all have maintained a nice balance through these long winter months and that if you get a case of the blahs, you are armed and ready to blast them right on outta there!!!!