Blue Monday might be well and truly in the past but it’s a long journey from February until the spring sunshine arrives. For me at least, this is the most depressing time of year. It’s dark and dreary and cold and there are no fun holidays like Christmas or Halloween to look forward to. The dark days really make a difference to my levels of energy and motivation. If this is something that affects you too – here are some things that might help out.
It’s worth saying that these tips are aimed at curing a blue day – not anything more serious like depression or seasonal affective disorder. If you are feeling down a lot, you should speak to a doctor.
1. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
There’s a lot of emphasis on comfort food at this time of year. Whilst I love a fatty / sugary / salty feast as much as the next person (vegan junk food tasting is probably my favourite hobby) if that’s all you eat, it will make you feel like shit. I don’t believe in restrictive diets that deny you of treats – I can’t think of a better way to make you sad and hungry – so try adding fruit and vegetables into your winter diet instead. I get a weekly veg box delivered and this really works for me. Mine is from East Coast Organics but there are similar schemes in every major city. You can get them every week or fortnight, let them know what you like and don’t like, and order a size that suits you. My veg box people have my building key so I can come home from work and find an exciting box of muddy vegetables on my doorstep. This means that when I’m too lazy to meal plan or don’t have the energy to do a food shop and want to throw something together quickly, I make something from my veg box rather than that Tesco basics can of spaghetti hoops in my cupboard. Getting enough vitamins, nutrients and energy from your diet will help you feel so much better.
2. Go Outside
It’s grey and rainy and windy and cold, so going outside is the last thing you want to do, right? I actually find that cold-but-sunny winter weather incredibly invigorating but it doesn’t happen too often. Even if it’s looking soggy and unappealing, going for a quick walk can be just what you need to stop you from feeling cooped up or get you out of a rut. I never want to go outside in the cold, but once I’m there I feel so much better to have “blown away the cobwebs”, especially if I’ve managed to venture into a park or the countryside. If you can, wrap up and make time to look up and enjoy your surroundings (your commute to work / uni doesn’t count if you’re in a rush.) Being outside in the daylight will help you get some vitamin D and should wake up your brain, giving you some extra energy and motivation. The added bonus is that you’ll actually be pleased to return to your sofa from the cold.
3. Take A Bath
I don’t know what it is about baths, but for me they’re like a reset button. Whenever I’m in a foul mood, I take a bath and come out a new person. This time last year I could get through my full days in uni knowing that a bubble bath was waiting for me at the end of the day. There’s nothing quite like the tingly sensation of sinking your chilly toes into a warm bathtub full of moisturising oils and relaxing fragrances. These days my dermatitis prevents me from taking a soapy bubble bath, but I can still fill my tub with coconut oil and light a few scented candles to mimic the experience. If you’ve been feeling tense in the cold, a warm bath will relax your muscles, send you to sleep (helping you achieve tip number 4) and bring your body temperature back up when the winter frost has sunk into your bones. Take comfort in the fact that baths are never this satisfying in summer!
4. Wake Up On Time
Anyone that knows me in real life will be laughing right now because they know that getting up in the mornings is not one of my best qualities. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that it’s even harder to get out of bed in winter because it’s pitch black in the mornings. However, oversleeping can make you feel more tired, and the sleep you get when you’re continually hitting the snooze button is poor quality and won’t make you feel any more rested. I’m a heavy sleeper so anything I can turn off in my sleep (alarms…) is no good. If I can find a willing volunteer, I like to have someone phone me in the morning. I’m usually asleep when I answer the phone but wake up throughout the conversation and am ready to tackle the day after five minutes of chatting. Waking up on time means I see more of that fleeting sunlight and my day feels more productive. I think getting up in the mornings is so important, even if it’s the only “productive” thing you do that day.
5. Relish Winter Activities
If talking about the weather is a national sport in Britain, complaining about short days is the highlight of our Winter Olympics. It’s so easy to anticipate feeling bad when the days get shorter and to spend your days wishing for the sunshine to return. Given how much we expect to hate winter, it’s not surprising that we do! Try to approach the season with positivity and enjoy those things that you can only do in colder weather – making decadent hot chocolate, sitting by the fire, taking icy walks that finish in your favourite pub, reading under a blanket and spending time indoors with friends eating, drinking, playing board games, watching films and listening to music. There’s a great Norwegian word, “koeselig” that means cosiness and describes just these sorts of activities. If we all implemented a little more koeselig into our lives, the winter would fly by. There’s no reason these things should be confined to Christmas! This article explains how the Norwegians do it in more detail.
6. Seek Out Artificial Sunlight
There’s a reason that many people feel blue in winter – we’re not exposed to as much sunlight. Sunlight helps us to generate vitamin D which, although the science isn’t conclusive, is believed to affect chemicals in the brain such as serotonin that make us feel happy. Sunlight also prevents the brain from producing melatonin, a chemical which makes us feel sleepy – without the sun our brains are telling us that it’s time to sleep. This was probably advantageous when we were cavemen and being outside in the dark meant being more at risk from wild animals. It’s not so helpful in our modern lives when we need to work ’til 5 regardless of the fact that it’s been dark for hours. Artificially replicating sunlight can alleviate these symptoms – vitamin D tablets can replace the nutrients which are missing in winter and light boxes can imitate sunshine, making us feel more awake and energised.
There have been a lot of posts giving advice on how to survive a bad day circulating the internet recently. I think this is great – there’s no such thing as too much pep! Here are the articles I turn to for inspiration, in case you want some further reading…
I hope some of these tips helped you, if only a little, and I wish you the happiest of Februarys.