Winter is the season for snowmen, ice skates, and sledding; curling up with a quilt to read a good book; children wearing pj’s inside-out hoping for a snow day. One of my fondest memories during this time of year is sitting in my grandmother’s cozy warm kitchen sipping homemade hot cocoa and dipping Swedish potato bread while the bitter winds of winter howled outside.
For many people winter is about the blues more than the memories of days gone by or sports or spending time with family. It is estimated about 14% of the U.S. population experience this at some point during the season (Targum & Rosenthal, 2008).
Winter blues can feel like depression mixed with boredom and a little hopelessness thrown in for good measure. When that happens, we tend to focus more on the negative effects of winter – cold temperatures, shorter days, and feeling more isolated. Winter is also a time when we can feel more alone, especially after someone we love has died or a significant relationship has changed. The challenge to feel a sense of belonging and purpose can feel out of reach and we wonder what to do. The negative thinking may even spiral us down into questioning whether there is a reason to go on.
Once the “stinkin’ thinkin’” takes over it can be hard to beat back the blues. But there are things that can help – here are some which have made a difference for me and perhaps will encourage you:
- Remember, not every thought that comes to mind is true. The blues will try to convince you of lots of things that have no validity whatsoever – so first thing is to divert your attention away from the negatives that try to keep you down. Daily affirmations help – goodfinding.com is just one website that offers free daily inspiration emails.
- Choose gratitude over gloom. Start each day with a list of at least 3 things you are grateful for that you’ve observed or experienced in the past 24 hours. When I first started doing this it took me a couple of days to think of more than one or two; by the end of the first week I was filling up a page – and best of all, happiness started to fill me up a little at a time, too.
- Consider volunteering. There are numerous agencies which need you and your unique talents! Animal shelters, libraries, hospitals, hospices, food pantries, senior centers, community non-profits – they have open positions and you can usually choose your own schedule. It also gets you out of the house with people who appreciate you and brings purpose back to your life.
- Look yourself in the mirror and repeat after me: “I am a worthwhile, valuable, significant person. I have talents and abilities that make a positive difference in the lives of others. Today I am grateful for my life and I choose to focus on positives regardless of any obstacles in my path.”
Targum, S. D., & Rosenthal, N. (2008). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 5(5), 31-33. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686645/
About the author
Beth Bolthouse, MA, LPC, a Bereavement Counselor for Harbor Hospice has been in her counseling profession for 14 years. Currently obtaining her Masters Degree in Thanatology at Marian University, she is an avid lover of her dogs, the arts, and West Michigan.