Overcoming the Winter Doldrums

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

As the end of January approaches, many of us are feeling broke, worn down, and cold!  By now, the holidays are long gone and the feelings of optimism and energy we may have felt at New Year’s have begun to dwindle as the realities of work life, bill payments (“I spent HOW MUCH on holiday gifts?!”) and cold, dark days hit us.  If this sounds familiar to you and you’re looking for ways to get re-motivated, the following list of budget-friendly ideas may be helpful in boosting your mood and energy levels and helping you get through the winter doldrums:

  1. Too cold to go outside?  Bring nature indoors with potted plants!  Indoor plants are well known for having many health and mood-boosting benefits, such as:  reduced stress, anxiety, and fatigue; increased memory, attentiveness, and feelings of well-being; increased oxygen levels to help improve breathing; purified air; etc.  Indoor plants can also help to increase feelings of compassion and purposefulness, by giving you something to care for.  Another way to bring nature indoors and help boost your mood:  create your own composition of nature sounds at naturesoundsfor.me.  This free, interactive online tool lets you listen to compositions made by other users, as well as create your own mix of nature sounds!
  2. Plan a games’ night in with friends.  This is inexpensive and fun!  It’s easy to isolate ourselves in the chilly winter months.  However, socializing and connecting with loved ones is a natural mood booster.  Also, consider making standing dates with friends and/or family members to keep your social calendar active and keep the winter "blahs" in check.
  3. Get your vitamins.  Certain supplements have been linked to mental and emotional well-being.  For example, Vitamin D, B-Complex Vitamins, and St. John’s Wort are all said to aid in the treatment of depression.  If you’re considering taking any vitamin supplements, always speak to your doctor first.
  4. Start your day with gratitude.  Research shows that gratitude is linked to greater feelings of happiness, increased resilience, and stronger relationships.  When we take the time to acknowledge what is good in our lives, we create space to experience more positive emotions.  There are many ways to practice gratitude throughout the day (e.g., saying “thanks” in-person if possible, or mentally; writing 3 things that you are grateful for each day in a gratitude journal; etc.).  In the book, “Five Good Minutes”, the authors Jeffrey Brantley (MD)  and Wendy Millstine, suggest starting your day with the following gratitude practice:
  • Breathe mindfully for about a minute.
  • Set your intention.  For example, “May this practice open my eyes in wonder and appreciation.”
  • Breathe mindfully for a few more breaths.
  • Now reflect on something in your life that works or supports you.  For example, “My heart is strong”, or, “My father is well”, or, “My e-mail got through”.  Quietly say thank you.
  • Reflect on something that – in its absence – is good.  For example, no toothache, or no sickness in a loved one, or no hurricane or tornado.  Quietly say thank you.
  • End by opening your eyes and moving gently.

For more information and techniques about mindfulness and mindful breathing, check out mindful.org.

5.  Exercise is well known for being a natural mood booster.  If you can bear it, bundle up and go for a walk a few times a week!  Or, check out your local recreation centre to see if they have an indoor track.  As well, certain yoga postures have been linked to greater balance, not just physically, but with our moods as well!  Check out these “Mood-Boosting Yoga and Breathing Postures” for an illustration of poses designed to decrease depression, anxiety, and stress – and increase confidence, clarity, and energy!

How do you get through the winter blues?  Share your ideas in the comments below!