Dealing with the Winter Blues: Practical Solutions Part II

Posted on: Tue, 02/15/2022 - 11:33
By: Richard Lange, Ph.D., LPC, LCSW


In my last blog post, I talked about some of the physical things you can do to overcome the
"Winter Blues;" get more light, exercise, and hydrate.  This time we will look at some mindset tips that help people get out of their funk.

Make plans.

Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with the winter blahs, however, it actually makes a lot of sense. If you celebrate the holidays, you are constantly planning: what to make for Thanksgiving, where you will go, or who you will invite. Then, Christmas comes, and you plan what to buy the kids, and where you want to be. You might think about when and how to put up the decorations. You might even be involved in planning the office holiday party. I could go on, but you get the idea, there is a lot of planning around the holidays, and then BAM, you put away the holiday decorations, relatives leave, the parties end. There’s nothing to prepare for anymore.

It seems that making plans can help us come out of the winter doldrums. So, what can you plan? If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you can start planning your planting and maybe even beginning some plants from seeds. I talked to my elderly neighbor, who was going on and on about her garden. I thought, "well, you got about three or even four months before you can do anything," but that did not deter her. She was so happy but realistic when she said, "Oh, I can't wait for spring." The point, of course, is that she was planning, and it kept her going.

You can plan social events (Now I realized that at this time I am writing this, we have a massive spike in COVD-19 infections, so I am not recommending planning unsafe events or doing anything to increase your exposure, but there are some things you might judge to be safe like walks with friends in a nearby park)

Just like you plan events for the Holiday, don't stop because it's winter. Plan something for Valentine’s Day. A radio station in Philadelphia that plays Christmas music all the time has the tagline "Making it the Best Christmas ever!" well, you can steal that line and do things like "Best Valentines ever!"  "Best St. Patrick's Day ever" or whatever.

Speaking about whatever, planning does not have to be around specific holidays. For example, three years ago, I planned a Hygge night. Hygge is a concept from Scandinavian (where it is dark most of the winter) that celebrates warmth, friendship, and cozy.   The Danes eat cardamom twists, mulled wine, and spiced tea.   I invited people over and had blankets, hot chocolate, and a friend made Swedish meatballs (not from Ikea!).  Oh, of course, the night of the gathering was one of these days in Philadelphia when the weather was like 60 degrees, but we had fun anyway.

If you don't want to plan socially, you can prepare for your summer vacation and map out places to go or friends to visit.   

Finally, you can plan to do something nice for others. Maybe a plan to help a neighbor. Perhaps you have a friend dealing with an illness; you can plan to do something special for them. Perhaps even arrange to make some food for a shelter or nursing home.

Consider these cold winter months as a time to prepare for the year ahead. Living in this environment of course entails navigating the unpredictability of the first few months of the year but for the most part the remainder of the year is a great mix of and we really get to experience all the seasons. For some it might be a reason to head south, but for others they may consider it to be a perk of life!

Set goals for the year, financially plan, create a wellness routine to kick start in the spring. Just because the calendar turned a new year doesn’t mean you can’t make the spring season your own personal January 1st.

If all of these suggestions to beat the blues sounds like the opposite of your personality stay tuned for my next installment where I will share tips for those that may best navigate the winter blues through being still, patient and even snoozing through the first quarter of the year!