Long Nights, Dark Days: Staying Mentally Healthy All Winter 

 It sure can be tempting to just hunker down into that depression, and make yourself a little home of blankets and hot drinks and Netflix.

Winter! It’s upon us! For those of us in the Northeast, it’s cold and dark and can feel absolutely endless. It’s also the season of S.A.D., heightened anxiety and stress, and just plain old exhaustion. It sure can be tempting to just hunker down into that depression, and make yourself a little home of blankets and hot drinks and Netflix. But hygge, while wonderful, is not always enough on its own when it comes to fighting my winter blues. If this is also true for you, I’ve compiled a little list of ways to combat that feeling of becoming a totally useless lump on your couch.

Actually DO The Things

Listen, I get as high on canceled plans as anybody else, and I love me a good night in with my dog, some wine, and a million episodes of whatever show is most appealing at that moment. Winter is the easiest season to bail on your social commitments, but I always find that once I’m out at the dinner party or the yoga class or the volunteer activity, I'm glad to have stuck to my plans and gotten out of the house.

Nourish Yourself Well

Sure, the darkness and the cold make you want to scarf down nothing but warm, buttery carbs. And you should! All the pancakes and waffles and muffins and pasta your heart desires. But you should still try to get some fruits and veggies in, and some of the foods that help to boost your lower-than-usual mood and energy. Also, while many of the winter holidays emphasize fasting all day to put away a giant feast, you’ll feel a whole lot happier if you snack or eat small meals at regular intervals throughout the day. While I know it’s probably tempting to consume more alcohol, know your limits. I know you don’t want to wake up in the pitch dark and scrape the ice off your windshield with a wicked hangover.

And just like in the warmer seasons, don’t forget to stay hydrated!

 

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Get Creative

If you’re snowed in, iced in, or otherwise trapped at home, try to think beyond magazines and puzzles. Making something tangible not only feels good, but it also passes the time effectively. Also! Crafting is a beautiful way to make some holiday gifts for people you love (and people you kind of like but are obligated to put on your gift list), and they will be super impressed by your skillz.

Sun, Sun, And More Sun

This one, I know you know. Exposure to sunlight is what releases serotonin in your brain, which is what makes you feel good. Easy, right? Well, not when you work all of the hours that the sun is in the sky. So, get yourself one of those nifty sunlamps, bundle up and take a walk outside on your lunch break, and get plenty of outdoor time on the days you’re not working (Snow-angel-making, anyone?) to ensure that you’re soaking up those rays.

Move Your Body

Oh, and that reminds me — exercise remains essential for your mental health, even when it’s 1000% harder to be outside or get to a gym class. If you can, do some yoga at home or play in the snow for a little while. Have a snowball fight. Shovel the front steps. Have a dance party in your bedroom. It does the body and the soul some good.

Love Hard

It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Especially if you live alone, or work long hours, feelings of isolation and loneliness can arrive with the first frost and linger until spring. Make sure you’re staying in close touch with people who bring you joy, who make you laugh, and who know you well enough to let you know that yes, it is time to change out of those pajamas (even if it’s just to put on a fresh pair).

Bake some cookies for someone. Mail some love letters. Finally call that person you’ve meant to call. The little sparks of human connection can add up to keep the home fires burning in your heart, lighting you up from within, all season long. 


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