The holidays are over. Credit card debt is hitting our bank statements. Skies are gray and swollen with clouds. And 1 in 5 Americans experiences “winter blues” every year, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Yes, the shortened daylight and lack of sunshine take a toll. In fact, in some time zones, it’s dark when you wake up and dark when you get home from work.

Consequently, from November to Spring, it’s hard to get out of bed and feel motivated. You feel tired and are unable to concentrate. You want to eat, crave carbohydrates, and often feel like being alone. Your friends say you are more irritable, anxious and down. It seems like winter will never end. All this gloom is getting to you.

Well, you are not alone. You, like 35 million Americans, may be affected by winter blues, a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. The farther north you live, the greater your chance to be affected.  So what can you do to stop being an irritable or depressed family member? Move to Florida? You could, but there is a cheaper and easier solution.

Number one is to get more light. Light helps regulates brain chemistry. When light interacts with the eye through the optic nerve, good things happen to mood. In very simple terms, light increases brain chemicals that help fight depression. Some people are helped more by being exposed to intense light in the mornings, while others respond to increased light anytime of the day.

There are commercial lighting devices and florescent light boxes. Some insurers will even reimburse you for the light devices. Or you can try 30 minutes of morning light by walking outside, sitting under a fluorescent light while watching TV, reading, etc. However, you shouldn’t  stare into a light source. You’ll only get a headache! Just do a normal activity with the light in your field of vision.

Since we have a  number of months to go before Spring, here are a few helps to make winter a bit more enjoyable and lift those winter blues:

  1. Find ways to enjoy the cold. Part of the winter blues is feeling trapped and cold. So, think like a northerner and do fun winter things like cross country skiing, play in the snow, or bundle up for a run in the cold. Embrace the cold since you can’t change it. It’s all about attitude! Change your mindset. Engage vs. resist.
  2. Tackle that indoor project that you have been thinking about but haven’t done. Maybe it’s organizing a room or closet, or going through your closet to give clothes away, unpacking boxes, reorganizing your pantry, etc. Now is the time. The sense of accomplishment will boost your mood.
  3. Take off your sun glasses. If it is bright outside, don’t wear sunglasses for part of the time. The eyes bring in light and help with mood regulation. And lift the window shades in your home or apartment and bring in the light. Bundle up and step into the great outdoors.
  4. Get plenty of vitamin D. The sun is a source of vitamin D. Depending on where you live, the sun may not shine too often in winter. Take vitamin D every day to improve your mood. And if you are looking for food sources, try more swordfish, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, sardines, eggs, and cereals fortified with vitamin D.
  5. Plan indoor fun. Maybe it’s time to host a dinner or party. I know this has been challenging during the pandemic. So, think small get-together. Or maybe you need a comedy night playing crazy board games or watching indoor movies. Perhaps invite a few people over to play cards. This is how we survived cold Michigan winters. Lots of games and socializing to keep our spirits high.
  6. Find people who are happy and engaged. Happy people are contagious. If you socialize with complainers or moody people during winter, you may start to feel the same.
  7. Do something new. Learn a new game, take up a new hobby, practice a skill or develop a musical talent. The newness will boost your mood. Novelty is good for the brain.
  8. If you have a fireplace, sit by it and read. Brew a cup of tea and make it a winter experience. If you don’t have a fireplace, go to a local coffee shop. Read and relax or meet a friend for good conversation. The idea is to find a cozy place. Make it your winter go-to.
  9. Check community events that will force you out of the house–musicals or plays, the arts or symphony. If you buy a ticket, you will go.
  10. During these months of increased darkness, stay in the spiritual light–Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid, He is our anchor and hope. Boost your mood by staying spiritually strong. Read your Bible and be encouraged! Isn’t it amazing that God’s creation–light, can improve mood? Remember the Sunday School song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine?”  Don’t hide it under a bushel like the song exhorts. Let it shine!
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