Do you get unusually crankier during winter? I’ve always had a tough time going through winter. The signs are subtle. I stay longer in bed in the morning. I am less motivated to do the things I normally love doing. Days start to blur. I become more irritable and feel lonelier. Especially where I live in Ontario at times, it seems like the cold weather will never end. I love being outdoors but during the winter, when it’s so cold, occasionally snowy, then add COVID-19 restrictions, I am indoors doing activities and trying to keep sane.
Here are some simple things you can do to help stay cheerful during the darker days of winter.
1) Comfort Food for Better Mood
Mulled wine, hot toddies, hot cocoa and warm apple cider are my favorite holiday drinks to make at home. I make my drink, cozy up with my blanket and laptop, plop down on my recliner and work on my businesses. Eating comfort food lifts my mood almost instantly. It is associated with good thoughts and warm feelings, especially when the temperature is frigid outside.
One of my favorite meals during the winter is chili, and Keith (hubby) makes the best! (Since we turned vegetarian, we had to make some modifications, but it is still awesome.) A fresh loaf of bread from our local bakery and a meal in a bowl. So delicious.
2) Winter decorating
When I think about winter, one of things I look forward to is decorating our house with lights. I consider this a quintessential winter activity. The light decorations bring a special feeling of warmth and festivities to our house.
Now that the Christmas Tree has been put away, look for other ways to light up your house. Add twinkle lights in glass vases, pre-lite candles, flameless fire pits or dim your overhead lights....Let the lights shine.
3) Sunshine and light therapy
A daily dose of sunshine is a well-known way to keep the S.A.D. away. With shorter daylight however, it could be more difficult. Try a light therapy to help boost your mood and increase your energy level.
If you’re not getting out enough sunshine, take your Vitamin D supplements or Vitamin D fortified drinks for a balanced diet.
Another thing you can try is a sunrise alarm clock. Because it gets dark in the early morning during winter, instead of being jolted from your sleep which can lead you to feel cranky and unrested. Using a sunrise alarm clock can wake you up in a more natural and gradual way.
4) Winter months are for winding down
Winter months is the slow season. Animals go into hibernation. Some plants become dormant while others slow their growth. They conserve their energy that will last months until spring. I believe humans likewise naturally slow down during winter months. However, the daily grind of the modern life and the pressure of productivity of the hustle culture continue to seep into winter.
Ignore the guilt and pressure of the get-stuff-done culture. Allow yourself to take a breather. Bring down the pace of your normal life. Remember self-compassion. Make sure to leave an empty day or two in your schedule to wind down.
5) Self-reflection and journaling
Along with taking a slower pace of life during winter, this time of year is also the perfect time for self-reflection. Journaling your thoughts and feelings help you stay connected with yourself and stay grounded during uncertain times.
Here are 5 journaling prompts you can use to get started:
Name 5 things that you are grateful for from last year
Name 3 things that you could improve on this year
Name 2 things that you are proud of yourself
What are you looking forward this year?
What are new 3 things you’ve learned about yourself?
6) Keep on Moving
Working from home makes it hard to get our daily 10, 000 steps. It’s even harder during the winter when the days are shorter. Less daylight means less time being spent outside means less exercise.
Keep going out for walks whenever possible and stretch out those legs. Pair up with a friend to encourage each other. You can try getting a Fitbit to track your daily step counts and doing daily challenges with your friends.
When you’re working, invest in a standing desk or stack books to prop up your computer. My body feels a lot less achy when I transition from sitting to standing throughout the day.
7) Host a virtual game night
Winter is a time for friends and family get-togethers. Socially, it’s usually the busiest during November and December months. The pandemic put a damper on our usual plans, and we may start to feel lonelier as a result. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t get together virtually with our friends and families. Some favorite virtual games include: Among Us, Jackbox Party Games, and Words with Friends.
8) Give gifts to friends
Research suggests that generosity makes us happy, leads to better health, and encourages social connection.
You may not be able to spend time with those you care about but a little reminder that we’re thinking of them goes a long way. The gifts could be baked goods, handmade gifts or an item that reminds you of them. There’s just something about the delight of gift-giving that makes us feel good, but there’s actually science backing it up. Research says that people who give social support to others have lower blood pressure than people who don’t. Supportive interaction with others also helps people recover from coronary-related events.