As we come to the end of January with its cold, dark, gloomy weather, I have been finding it hard not to let my mood match the season. I tend to go into a slump every January through March and I don’t think I’m the only one! Every year, I know the “winter blues” will hit me so I’ve managed to figure out some simple ideas for winter self care that help me make it through the season.
Read on to see which of these winter self care ideas might work for you too so that you don’t fall victim to the “winter blues”.
Are the “winter blues” a real thing?
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays over and the shorter, darker winter days upon us, many experience what is commonly referred to as the “winter blues”. We are spending more time indoors and tend to feel kind of down in the dumps and more lethargic than usual. This has been especially elevated the past couple of winters due to the pandemic and the increased isolation many of us are experiencing.
Although real, the “winter blues” are usually mild and are not an actual medical condition. It’s more of a mood of feeling less happy than normal during the winter months, but the winter blues should not affect your ability to function and enjoy life.
On the other hand, there actually is a medical condition often experienced in winter called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression wherein the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D affect the levels of serotonin and melatonin in your brain.
Whereas SAD is a seasonal mental health disorder characterized by overwhelming feelings of sadness that can interfere with daily functioning and is treatable by a medical professional, the winter blues is more a state of mind often experienced during the winter months.
Often, you can help yourself manage the winter blues by trying some simple winter self-care ideas.
Although I can’t claim total victory over my own winter blues, below are some of my favorite tried and true winter self care ideas to help you get through the season.
1.) Establish a consistent sleep/wake routine
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help to regulate your internal clock and allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and energized and also minimizes fatigue throughout the day.
We often wake up to the cold darkness during the winter months, but I have found that creating a morning routine that I look forward to helps me want to get out of bed and allows me to start my day on a positive note.
I wake up earlier than the rest of my household and use this sacred morning time for journaling, meditation, exercise, reading, or whatever my body and mind are telling me is needed. After all, the key to self-care is being aware of what you need and taking steps to replenish, maintain and promote your mental and physical well-being.
My early morning routine also requires me to go to bed at a reasonably consistent time each night too, which is equally important.
2.) Move your body
There is no shortage of evidence on the fact that physical activity helps you feel happier. Exercise is a natural mood booster and is often used to help fight depression.
When you exercise, the body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause stress and anxiety. I’m sure many of you have experienced that “runner’s high” or burst of energy after engaging in some cardio activity.
I’ve been in a funk before and found after just 10 minutes of physical activity, I’m feeling much less anxious and my mood drastically improves.
3.) Go outdoors every day
Getting outside each day will naturally lift your spirits. Even when it’s cold out, try to go out for a walk for at least 10 minutes a day when the light is the brightest, between 10am in the morning and 3pm in the afternoon. You will find that the fresh air filling your lungs and sunlight will do wonders to boost your mood.
I can attest to this first hand. When I was feeling particularly stressed and anxious during the beginning days of the pandemic, I can remember getting out into the fresh air and literally feeling the stress and anxiety drain out of my body.
It’s also beneficial to make an effort to be mindful on your walk by noticing your breath and nature around you. Connecting with nature greatly helps with improving stress levels, productivity and general motivation. If it’s not too cold, you could try a longer walk or even a hike.
4.) Embrace the season by practicing hygge
Despite having some of the longest, darkest winters in the world, the happiest people live in the Nordic countries, according to the World Happiness Report. As of March 2021, Finland had been ranked the happiest country in the world four times in a row, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
The idea of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) permeates much of the Nordic cultures, although it originated in Denmark. Hygge celebrates all things cozy. It is about warmth, kinship, and appreciation for the little things. An example of hygge would be spending quality time with your family by playing a board game, as you sit around the fire drinking hot cocoa in your cozy pajamas.
It all boils down to being kind and gentle with yourself, appreciating the little things, slowing down and spending time with the people you love as a way to practice self-care. Maybe it’s a coincidence that the Nordic populations are the happiest in the world, while also being able to find comfort and appreciation in what many others find the most dreary time of year, or maybe they’re truly onto something…
I’m willing to give their idea of hygge a try, why not? I’m all about cozy slippers, hot cocoa, and family game night while the fireplace keeps us toasty.
5.) Let music soothe your soul
Research suggests that listening to music has various stress-relieving benefits. It can lower your heart rate and cortisol levels and release endorphins that improve your sense of well-being and actually works to reduce physical and emotional stress levels. Relaxing music can also help you fall asleep.
When you’re feeling down, you might choose to listen to music that matches your mood because it makes you feel understood and can be soothing. It’s fine to do that for some time, but after a while, you may find yourself wallowing in your gloomy mood and the melancholy music is only pulling you down deeper. So change it up to tunes that are the opposite of how you’re feeling – upbeat songs that lift you up and give you the energy you’re lacking.
6.) Take time for gratitude
Incorporating a gratitude practice into your day will help you feel happier. When you actively make an effort to notice all the blessings or good things in your life, you are bringing positivity to the forefront of your mind. You will find that after some time of doing this, your mind naturally starts to go there on it’s own, which causes your mental outlook to shift and you start feeling happier.
Also, studies have shown that regularly expressing gratitude can also help your physical health. By contributing to your overall sense of well-being and thus lowering stress levels, it actually helps to boost your immune system. Since stress can lower your body’s immune response, practicing gratitude and other things to reduce your stress level can in turn help your body fight off illness.
Some ways you can easily incorporate gratitude into your day include the following:
- writing in a gratitude journal*
- saying a gratitude affirmation when you awake each morning
- expressing gratitude to others in your life by writing a letter
- doing something kind for someone
- giving thanks through prayer.
7.) Use positive affirmations
Have you ever heard the saying “you are what you think”? Well, there is some truth to that. Just as negative thinking can lead to a more negative outlook on life, positive thoughts will have the opposite effect.
Talking to yourself by repeating short, encouraging statements, called affirmations, can help you cultivate positive thinking and boost your confidence, happiness, and overall well-being. I used to think this was silly or something you’d only see in an SNL skit, but it truly works!
Hear me out. I’m not talking about staring at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself “I’m worthy” or “I’m enough” over and over again, although there is no shame in that. It could be what works for some.
Personally, what is helpful for me is repeating quietly to myself, a simple statement that I find meaningful. Lately, this is the tagline from one of my favorite Peloton instructors, “I am, I can, I will, I do”. This simple statement helps me maintain positivity, keeps me focused on my goals, and gives me confidence in myself.
Cultivating a positive mindset is one of the most important things you can do to be happier year round and will definitely help you through the winter months!
So there you have it. My 7 simple winter self care ideas you can use to help boost your mood and beat the winter blues.
Which ones will you try? Is there anything I missed that works for you? Comment below and let me know.
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Carly is a wife, mom, and former fashion industry executive turned blogger, who is on a journey to live life as the best version of herself. Through her website, littlevoicebigmatter.com, she shares practical advice and heartfelt insights to inspire and support women in motherhood, relationships, wellness, and life.