Mind & Spirit

7 creative ways to shake off the winter blues

By: Katherine Vankoughnet

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

7 creative ways to shake off the winter blues

By: Katherine Vankoughnet
The mercury is dropping, the nights seem endless, and all you want to do is live under the covers with an unlimited supply of carbohydrates and pout. You're battling the winter blues, and they're winning.

Seasonal depression, characterized by mood swings, anxiety, weight gain or loss, exhaustion or any combination thereof, can make swimming pools and sandals seem like long-forgotten dreams, never to recur. Here are a few ways to shake off the winter blues, and stay happy and hopeful throughout the coldest, dreariest months of the year.

7 creative ways to shake off the winter blues
1. Become a sun worshipper

Lack of sunlight is a leading contributor to the fatigue, irritability and mood changes associated with seasonal depression. In fact, one of the treatments most frequently used for seasonal affective disorder (a less common, more severe form of the winter doldrums) is light therapy – but for milder funks take advantage of the real deal when you can.

Go for walks or jogs on bright sunny days, and dress warmly so the cold won't discourage you. Studies have shown that exposure to the sun aids your brain in the production of serotonin, a chemical that acts as a natural antidepressant. If you need a stronger dose, a midseason vacation to a warmer climate might be the boost you need to see you through to spring.

2. Embrace a winter sport
Can you imagine actually looking forward to the cold? Taking up a winter-specific activity might help replace your feelings of dread with ones of anticipation. Sports such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating provide that much-needed adrenaline rush that you can't get from couch surfing, with the added bonus of two of the greatest natural mood elevators: exercise and the great outdoors.

If you're not much of a daredevil, try something low-impact such as snowshoeing or even curling if you have a competitive edge.

3. Throw a party
No upcoming birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate during the cold, dark months? No problem. A midwinter celebration doesn't require a special occasion to bring friends together. Planning and coordinating a party serves as a good distraction from the inclement weather, plus the excitement of having something to look forward to will help create feelings of happiness.

If you're not keen on hosting a big to-do, collaborate with a friend or plan a group weekend getaway. Socializing and making positive human connections will help reduce stress and improve your mood.

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4. Get growing
It might not seem like the best time to be thinking about gardening, but taking on a few low-maintenance houseplants can greatly improve your mood. Not only do plants help brighten up a room, but the process of caring for your indoor winter garden can also be therapeutic. Try a peace lily or English ivy -- they both have air-purifying qualities.

5. Set a goal
Sure, summer seems impossibly far away, but not when you think of it as a bikini-ready-body deadline -- you’ll be amazed at how quickly the clock starts to tick!

Of course, the goal doesn't have to be fitness-related; it can be financial or geared toward the completion of a specific project, such as redecorating a bedroom or finishing that sweater you started knitting months ago.

Break down any ambitious undertakings into smaller tasks to complete throughout the winter months (so instead of trying to lose 25 pounds by Victoria Day, aim to lose five pounds a month). That way you can achieve that mood-boosting sense of accomplishment more frequently, which will increase the likelihood of successfully hitting your goal.

6. Stay home
Long nights and plummeting temperatures create the perfect opportunity for a bit of introspection; it's time to spend on things that will nurture your emotional well-being. When you're feeling particularly put out by the gloominess of the season, do whatever it is that makes you happy: listen to upbeat music, watch a favourite film or consider spending an entire evening reading in bed.

Allow yourself to be a bit of a homebody from time to time, and experience hibernation as an indulgence, not a punishment. In small doses, retreating from the outside world can have rejuvenating effects.

7. Get help
The winter blahs affect many people to varying degrees, but they are manageable. However, if you're experiencing symptoms of depression that are disruptive or debilitating, and that last for a prolonged period, you should speak to a medical professional.

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Mind & Spirit

7 creative ways to shake off the winter blues