As Midwesterners, we know that the dark, cold days of a typical winter can affect our mood and energy. Last winter was unprecedented … very little sunshine, snow storms, ice storms, polar vortex, school closings … and took a toll on our mental health. While there’s nothing we can do about the weather, we can take steps now to help lessen the impact.
“Green up” your indoor space.
Plants have been proven to bring many benefits, both to the individuals who own them and to those who view them. Plants have been shown to:
- Boost your mood by reducing stress and promoting feelings of well-being and optimism
- Provide better indoor air quality by purifying the air
- Help you feel better
- Lower blood pressure
- Make your space more comfortable
- Enhance concentration, memory, creativity and productivity
Don’t have a green thumb? Research shows that looking at photos of greenery can help reduce your stress and bolster your immune system.
Invest in full spectrum lighting.
Many people who suffer from seasonal affective depression disorder have found relief with using lamp lights. Exposing yourself to full spectrum lighting for 20 to 30 minutes mimics natural sunshine and can help make the days seem less dreary. If you can’t afford a light system, full spectrum light bulbs for home lamps can be more cost effective.
Schedule social activities.
Just because you’re indoors more, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with family and friends. Planning dinners, indoor movie dates, girls’ nights, home karaoke and card games can offer an outlet for laughter and fun. We all need a balance of work and play in life. Fun also helps boost serotonin levels and encourage bonding with those we care about.
Coordinate a few winter get-togethers.
- Host a dinner party, potluck or progressive dinner
- Coordinate a baked goods exchange
- Take part in game nights or tournaments
- Pursue a personal hobby, craft or other passion
- Join or host a book discussion
- Have a movie night
- Throw a themed party – i.e. costume, murder-mystery, ground hog’s day, mardi-gras
Plan a vacation (even if you can’t take it right away).
Longing for sunnier days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.
Get your groove on!
Create a playlist of songs that make you feel good. Upbeat music is a sure-fire pick-me-up. Here’s WatchMojo.com’s top 10 Songs That Make You Smile. What’s going on your playlist?
- Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves
- Dancing Queen, Abba
- Mr. Blue Sky, Electric Light Orchestra
- I Want You Back, The Jackson Five
- Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
- I Got You (I Feel Good), James Brown
- Happy, Pharrell Williams
- Wouldn’t It Be Nice, The Beach Boys
- Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles
- My Girl, The Temptations
Invest in the right outdoor gear.
Getting outside during the winter can boost our mood and immune system. Too cold? The Norwegians have a saying we should take to heart, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.” Look for some deals before and after the holidays so you can layer up and be warm this coming winter when you step outside. The Midwest can really be a winter wonderland when you’re not shivering.
Talk it out with someone.
If you’re really feeling down, overwhelmed or not yourself, don’t let winter weather hold you back from making a therapy appointment. Pine Rest teletherapy services allow you to stay home or in the office for your session. Many insurance policies now cover teletherapy and the copay is the same as an office visit.
Our winters can be tough, but using the tools above can help you be proactive about the cold days ahead!
Elizza LeJeune, LMSW, is a fully licensed clinician social worker at the Pine Rest Northwest Clinic. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Central Michigan University and her Master’s in Social Work with a Certificate in Disaster Mental Health from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her areas of interest include working with children, adolescents and adults struggling with depression, anxiety and spiritual issues as well as family, child and women’s issues.