“Do not want to go out in fridge-crossed-with-swimming pool-like world.” – Helen Fielding,
Do you feel you’ve had enough of this damn gloomy winter?
At some point, we all do. As winter puts us in the dark side, it viciously reduces our energy, irritates us, and makes us depressed, anxious, and constantly hungry. Our worst winter blues even has a psychiatric diagnosis, named accurately as ‘SAD’ – Seasonal Affective Disorder. And if that’s not enough, climate change worsens things by the hour, conducting extreme weather conditions like snowstorms on one side, and heart-breaking fires on the other side.
But don’t lose heart. Not only can we still minimize the climate change, but we can also turn our gloomy moods upside down. As intimidating as Wintersmith may look, it has a variety of presents for us hidden in his sack.
So let’s dive in and find our encouragements.
1. Turn On A Light
Our harshest depressant is the lack of light. Once upon a time, we used to spend our lives outside, and those of us who survived the cold got enough light to be as merry as Santa Claus. (Appreciating survival may have helped, too.) Today, on the other hand, most of us spend our lives sitting in dim offices in front of screens. Therefore, many of us have light-deficiency even during the summer.
As we’re not going to leave our offices right away, not all of us, anyway, the next best thing is to install full-spectrum light bulbs where we spend most of our time. While not many years ago, you had to be a magician to find and afford these bulbs, now they’re everywhere. Furthermore, they’re the cheapest and most efficient solution for people who prefer to leave their melancholy behind. Or for mangers who prefer undepressed workers, for some reason.
2. Surround Yourself With Lights
The darkness shamefully fades away whenever it encounters other lights as well.
Candles And Fire of hearths are amazingly relaxing. (As long as you remember to air your home properly, anyway.)
Aquariums add magic to life not only because of the light they bring but also because of the colorful fish. If they contain green plants, as they absolutely should, they’re even happier. (A natural Aquarium requires almost no effort, so it’s the perfect solution for the busy and lazy people we all are.)
Bright Colors can also cheer us up, whether in our surroundings or in our clothes. For some mysterious reason, most of the winter clothes are dark and dreary (maybe because depressed people are proven to be better buyers). But we can always rebel and find jolly items.
Vacations are naturally sunny, if you can go to a sunlit destination in winter. However, the amazing thing is that you don’t actually have to go. Even planning a bright vacation for the summer can fill your brain with light and cheer it up. How incredible is that?
3. Get Out
Another surprising way to get the light we need is going outside. Taking a walk on our lunch breaks and weekends can help us discover the wonders of our chilly world. It’s especially crucial for people who get to the office when it’s still dark and leave it when it’s already dark. The ones who secretly believe that the sun was eaten by a giant dragon.
Walking outside, we can enjoy the rain, the snow, the unexpected meetings with other freezing creatures, and the unique (and sometimes very well hidden) beauty of our surroundings. Spending time outside is excellent both for our mental and physical health (which is essentially the same), as we can also see in the next recommendation:
Physical Activity creates endorphins, which are basically legal chemicals that make us feel high. While outdoor activities, like winter sports, are the best, indoor activities are also very effective for improving our dispirited mood. If you like the activity, the feelings of your moving body are the best kind of meditation. If you don’t, you can always lose yourself in good music and let its energy push you into movement. Music, in general, with or without action, is another great helper for the mood. Every baby knows that. But lamentably, many unhappy adults forgot it.
5. Heat And Eat
When we’re cold, we become irritated, and we often catch a cold, too, which is even more irritating. As Ed Sheeran reminds us,
“It’s too cold outside for angels to fly.”
Therefore, I’m a great believer in the motherly nudge to wear a sweater. We better notice when we’re cold and miserable, and pay attention to being warm and cozy. One of the greatest ways to do it, and to enjoy ourselves, is comfort food. Hot beverages, soups and stews are definitely a major reason for the winter’s existence. Now is the time to celebrate it all.
To comfort both our bellies and our consciences, we better exchange simple carbohydrates with complex ones. Taking vitamin D (which nowadays most of us lack, according to many experts, or have more than enough, according to others) may also help our health and our mood. Or not.
6. Grow Your Flower
I’ve recently been to the magnificent Moscow, and eventually comprehended what I’ve heard from a friend who works there: how unbearable these long winter nights are. One of the phenomenons I’ve noticed is how monochromatic the world is in general, and the lack of greenery in particular. We all need nature in our lives, (I’ve established my entire thesis on explaining it), so lack of vegetation brings the worst out of us.
A brilliant solution is to insert whole trees into our houses. (They better not be real ones if we want to keep doing it for long). Yet, less drastic plants can also work miracles for our nature-deficient souls. Plants can also add much-needed humidity to the heated dry air. Installing full-spectrum bulbs above our plants enables them even to bloom. That way we can delight both our bodies and our emotions, like the Qur’an wisely says,
“Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers also feed the soul.”
I reckon that no matter what the problem is, love is generally the solution. As I’m not exactly the first one who came up with this conclusion, the traditions all over the world celebrate the winter with holidays’ meetings of family and friends. (Along with food, lights, and alcohol, naturally, and the more the merrier.)
Cuddling with a loved one, or even with memories of a loved one, can warm us as well. Alternatively, Volunteering with people in need is one of the most established origins of joy. A furry pet, obviously, is another one. While Sartre declared that hell is other people, most of us would rather be in hell with the people we’re fond of than be in heaven alone. (Or with Sartre.) (Not to mention that a place full of flames seems rather attractive at this time of the year.)
8. Have Fun
It’s no big secret that doing things that we like makes us feel way better. Even work can lift our mood if it’s significant and satisfying (and if it’s not, our depression may have nothing to do with winter). Leisure activities can definitely be the best anti-depressants ever. Concerts, books, cooking, TV series, various lessons, movies, art, knitting and other crafts that no one but the practitioners can comprehend, collections and other hobbies, endlessly surfing the internet, and so on and so forth – the world is lying at our feet. We can enjoy so much of it without making any effort, that even the most pessimist complainer can’t help himself from (secretly) taking pleasure in winter.
Finding The Ways Out
Although we keep fearing the shadows even as grown-ups, we can use the cover of darkness to enjoy ourselves tremendously.
Lighting candles or bulbs, meeting people, eating, listening to cheery music, moving, consuming all kinds of mass culture, getting out, creating, adopting a pet, or a plant, or a plate, sleeping, planning, helping, watching the snow, or the rain, or the trendiest soap opera, or Oprah Winfrey, cooking, watching others cook in various programs, eating more, complaining, encouraging, drinking, crying, laughing.
Winter is the time to indulge ourselves, to take care of ourselves, and of the people we love (who annoy us the most). Turning winter into a time of music, company, activity, colors, and fun is right in our hands.
Indeed, it requires a little attention, but it pays back many times more.
Because we can brighten our winters up.
We can remember Nic Pizzolatto’s statement,
“Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”
We can brighten our lives.
We can become happy.
And we can help others, too. Our families, our friends, our environment.
One gloominess at a time.
One way out at a time.