Beating the Winter Blues

As a psychologist, I know that the winter blues are real. The darker days this time of year can cause a shift in mood for some, a change in sleep patterns for others, or cause no noticeable difference for many people. The winter blues are different than Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which must be clinically diagnosed.

Knowing about the winter blues, and about our climate in Northern Michigan, I take special steps to maintain my health in the cooler months. This includes keeping a consistent routine, letting more light into my house, and staying socially connected. I also decided long ago to embrace outdoor winter activities—and my children do the same!

Last weekend, I ran into a dilemma: I am a huge nature lover, but I can struggle with the cold and gray of winter just like many of you. I’d planned on going snowshoeing that Saturday morning, but I started to think that I may not want to go after all. I wondered, “Why should I leave my warm house?”

I realized that I was having negative thoughts about a possibly exciting day, so I worked to use helpful self-talk strategies, telling myself about the positives of a winter walk. This helped me get ready and head out the door. I reminded myself to embrace and “radically accept” that winter is here, and that I could make the most of it, especially since I had already invested in warm clothes and winter gear.

While snowshoeing, I tried to stay grateful and mindful. I paid attention to my senses: the silence of woods, the crunch of the snow when I walked, and the beauty of the snow on the trees. I checked in with my feelings during and after, and I felt energized and appreciative. I loved the scenery during my walk, and I was relaxed and happy afterward. I had zero regrets and couldn’t believe I had even considered staying in!

It is my hope that you will try something challenging this week as well, and think about the ways you can truly ENJOY winter!