Finding Joy in the Cold, Dark of Winter

I recently read this article on the “bad season” aka the few months every year (winter, summer, doesn’t matter) where everything just feels BLAH and self care becomes critical. For many people, THIS is the bad season. The part of winter where it’s been dark and cold and rainy/snowy for weeks. When the cheer of the holiday season has worn off. When we can’t be bothered to care about our yearly goals and resolutions. I personally have two bad seasons — one, right now, for 2 months or so and another in June-July when the heat is heavy and oppressive and I have to shower 3 times a day to feel clean. (We’ll dig in to the summer blues later this year. )

Right now, let’s discuss self care for the winter months. For me, the post-holiday-winter “bad season” manifests as lethargy, overeating, and general wallowing. But over the past few years, I’ve found ways to really lean into this time of year and make the best of it.

(First off, before we get in to the more lighthearted stuff — if you think you have depression or seasonal affective disorder, talk to your doctor or therapist. After getting diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder a few years ago and starting medication, my seasonal mood dips also drastically decreased. Ultimately, if what you feel is beyond a “bad season” thing — get help.)

Here are my tips:

Daily outdoor walks. I have 3 dogs making this a bit of non-negotiable. But even if you don’t have a furry companion, get outside every day (weather permitting). Bonus points if your walk takes you along a path with nature. Every morning, my husband and I bundle up and take our dogs on a 2 mile walk through our neighborhood and the adjacent nature preserve. I like to think of this as similar to the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” (which is supposed to do wonders for your health). If you are able, really try and get out in nature… even if it’s just walking under a few trees.

A 10 minute workout. If you’re already feeling lethargic, don’t try and get crazy and do a one hour HIIT session. Just try and do 10 minutes of activity everyday. I have a playlist with 10 minute floor workouts that I pull up every morning.

Aromatherapy. Procure a diffuser and experiment with different essential oil blends that fit in with the season. I love using blends with pine, bergamot, peppermint, and cinnamon this time of year.

Tea. Something about the process of making and drinking tea is incredibly comforting (especially when you are doing it the zero waste way with loose leaf tea). It’s a mindfulness practice in itself. Make yourself a cup, sit quietly, breathe in the steam, enjoy.

Socks. Cold feet suck. They make you not want to get up and do anything. Just wear the socks. Preferably the warmest ones you can find. I haven’t been sock-less in months now. As a whole, wear warm, cozy, and comfortable things.

Twinkle lights. These are not just for Christmas. I put up twinkle lights on my tv stand in November and don’t take them down until April. They make me happy and add a hint of magic to the everyday. So string up a strand in a visible spot in your home. Turn it on as soon as it gets dark out.

Puzzles. Find yourself some good 1,000 piece puzzles (Half Price Books usually has a bunch of pre-loved ones) and always have one going (ours is on the dining table). Any time you are feeling bored or uninspired, give yourself a goal of fitting 5 more pieces in. Whenever I do this, I inevitably end up spending at least an hour trying to get “just one more piece.” Bonus: it’s a bit of a brain workout.

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