By Emma Hickey
With the holidays behind us and the spring equinox months away, we are firmly in the bleakest part of the year. January through the end of March can be a real slog. In most parts of the country, it’s cold, or it’s rainy, or it’s snowy, and the sun certainly doesn’t shine as much as we’d like. Not to mention there aren’t any holidays coming up, or days off we can count on. It’s one long grind from here on out, until the weather turns warmer and Memorial Day rolls around.
It’s no wonder many of us start to feel a bit down during this part of the year! If that describes you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The winter blues, also known as the post-holiday blues, are the real deal and they’re pretty common. There are so many factors that contribute to these seasonal blues, some that seem obvious and some that don’t. Luckily, there are always things you can do to help yourself and keep yourself smiling until the sun comes back out.
Fake Some Sunlight
We all know that sunshine makes us feel happier, and there isn’t a lot of that in the winter. Sunlight helps the body produce serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that helps us feel calm and happy. You may even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is type of depression related to a lack of sunlight and the changing seasons, and affects one in six people. If your winter blues feel more like depression, definitely consult a doctor. Whether you think you’re suffering from SAD, or more of low grade serotonin deficiency, you can definitely help yourself feel a bit better by turning to light therapy. That’s right, modern technology found a way to recreate the sun’s rays in our very own homes. There are a lot of options out there for lamps that mimic the sun, and putting one in your home, or on your desk at work, can go a long way to improving your mood.
Patience and Perspective
Another factor that could be contributing to your winter blues is something called the contrast effect. The contrast effect is defined as, “a phenomenon where people perceive greater or lesser differences than are actually present as a result of prior or simultaneous exposure to something with similar base characteristics, but different key qualities,” and it most often pops up after the holidays. Did you have a wonderful, relaxing vacation? Then your day to day life may feel ten times more stressful than before your vacation, even though it’s no different now than it was then. Was your holiday season filled with parties, celebrations, and adrenaline-filled events? Then your day to day life might feel more boring than ever before, even though nothing has changed. Unfortunately, the best way to get over the contrast effect is simply to get through it. Give yourself time. Be patient with yourself, and try to keep perspective that the way you’re feeling now is only because you had such a wonderful holiday season, and it will pass.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
Another thing that can cause the winter blues? Loneliness. Humans are social creatures—even avowed introverts benefit from social interaction with trusted friends. During the cold winter months, though, we’re more likely to isolate ourselves. It’s easy to give into your desire to go home after work when it’s snowing, or freezing outside, but if you allow the weather to influence you every time, you may never spend time with your family or friends! That’s bound to make anyone feel lonely. So force yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning, venture outside on a Saturday night, and make time to connect with the ones you love, even when it means braving the elements.
Avoid Making Unrealistic Goals
The start of winter coincides with everyone’s favorite goal setting holiday—the New Year. New Year’s Eve is always exciting—goodbye old, hello new—and New Year’s Day is filled with promise. It’s as good a reason as any to set ambitious goals, break old habits, and change our lives, but many of us fall into the trap of making resolutions that are unfair to ourselves, or even unrealistic. It’s easy to set ourselves up for failure with a New Year’s resolution that was too aggressive, and when we inevitably fall short, it’s just as easy to slip into the blues. The winter blues. Don’t burn yourself out before springtime! Make sure your goals are attainable. Push yourself, but don’t break yourself.
Take on a Project
Winter can feel never ending. There’s not a lot that differentiates one day from the next. They’re cold and short and dark, and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not having an end of sight can definitely induce the blues, not to mention it makes time feel like it’s moving slowly. Taking on a project is a great way to combat this feeling because as you work on it in incremental steps, you can actually measure time passing, and you’ll feel like you’re marching towards the end of the season. Anything from teaching yourself how to play the ukulele, to knitting a sweater, to reupholstering a futon can help neutralize those blues. Not to mention you’ll be able to bust out the ol’ uke at the first barbecue of the season!