As I mentioned in a recent post, this year I’m approaching the cold winter months in a new way. Rather than be taken by surprise when I start to feel run down or blame myself for letting my health standards slip, I’m getting proactive about protecting myself from the winter blues. This year, I’m using them as an opportunity to practice self-love.
Whether or not you think of it as seasonal depression, I bet most of you can relate to the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But it’s nothing to be afraid of. Just like any challenge in life, once we put a name to it and address it head on, it no longer has power over us. So let’s do this!
To inspire you on your blues-crushing quest, here are 8 things I’m doing to stay happy and stress-free this winter:
1) Lighting candles (or a fire!).
For years, candles felt like an unnecessary luxury to me. Nice, but not worth the money. But ever since my friend Anna moved in and started lighting up the house a few months ago, I’ve had a total change of heart. Even the littlest tealight can make an entire room feel at peace. There’s something so primal about it – those little flames give us access to a precious part of nature, something we are so easily disconnected from when the weather keeps us cooped up.
2) Finding ways to move my body that make me super happy.
No matter how great I know it will make me feel, finding the motivation to leave my warm house and expend physical energy during the cold winter months is a huge challenge. I’m lucky that I genuinely enjoy practicing yoga, and this November I invested in two Groupon packages at local studios. Normally I’d just pop in a DVD and practice at home for free, so the fact that these classes were a bit of a splurge makes them feel like a huge treat. I also treated myself to this amazing yoga mat, which I should have invested in years ago. Now, rather than drag myself to the gym, I look forward to my workouts all day.
3) Going outside as much as I can stand it.
The whole primal living thing has encouraged me to pay way more attention to the way the outdoors affect me. I don’t know about you, but even a ten-minute walk during my lunch break can energize me as much as a cup of coffee. (I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine…) I can’t say I know all the science, but I know from experience that there’s no substitute for the way natural light tickles the brain. Even though going outside can often feel like the last thing I want to do, I’m starting to think of it as a form of therapy, and no dose is too small.
4) Scheduling regular social activities.
As an introvert, I know I need to be proactive about keeping my social tank from running low. But introvert or not, it’s easy to resist reaching out when you feel like crap. That’s why I’m working hard to put regular social activities on the calendar – at least two per week. Most are as simple as a weekly movie night with my housemates. It may not sound like much, but I know if I don’t write that stuff down, it probably won’t happen. And it’s much harder for me to refill that tank when it’s empty than it is to keep it filled up.
5) Biting the bullet and buying quality winter clothes.
This one is tough to swallow, but I’ve decided I’m at the point where I can afford to invest in some legit staples like a sturdy raincoat and a cozy down jacket. Key word being invest. Yes, they cost a lot. But let’s consider the alternative. For me, it would be opting out of social events because being in the cold makes me so miserable. (Yes, I am a wimp.) Plus, I know this stuff will be with me for years. I’ve shopped enough at H&M and Target to know that I’d end up spending just as much replacing the crappy pieces as I would ponying up for a nicer option.
6) Making every meal something to look forward to.
Ok, so this isn’t much of a departure from regular life. We all know how much I care about what I eat. But it’s so easy to reach for the crap when we’re looking for comfort this time of year. I’m working hard to avoid snack attacks by having nourishing, microwave-ready leftovers (like my Simple & Hearty Paleo Pot Roast or Cozy Beef and Eggplant Curry) waiting for me at lunch and when I get home from work. Not only do they make me feel warm and satisfied, but the extra thought and care I put into them makes each one feel like a treat. I might end up spending a bit more on ingredients, but I figure it’s worth it if it means avoiding the cycle of unhappiness that follows poor food choices.
7) Drinking bone broth.
This one might sound a little crunchy, but hear me out. You know that amazing, tingly joy you feel after slurping up a bowl of chicken soup in the winter? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have that feeling more often? Like, even between meals? Well, with bone broth, you can! Nutritional benefits aside, bone broth does wonders for my energy. It’s more rich and filling than a cup of tea, and it gives me the satisfaction of eating a nice hot meal – except better because I can drink it! It’s such a nice treat during my bus ride to work or before yoga class in the evening. (If you’re still freaked out, check out what one of my favorite wellness bloggers has to say.)
And last but not least…
8) Cutting myself some slack.
This is a tough season on all of us, and I’m accepting the fact that in the next few weeks, I’m going to have to let some things go. I might gain a few pounds. I might need to forgo a big night out in favor of an early bedtime. (Or, more realistically for me, the opposite.) I might need to get creative about how I exercise. I might need to spend extra money on things I’d normally consider indulgences (hot drinks, pedicures, bath salts, candles, etc.). I might need to invest in some supplements to keep my energy up. But it’s all in the name of keeping myself in balance. When the seasons change, we have no choice but to change with them.
Do you struggle with SAD? What are your strategies for staying happy and energized?