Every year in the month of February, the winter blues really start to set in for me. I don't feel it much in November or December with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or even in January since we have a lot of family birthdays to keep up with. But come February, the dark and gloomy days really start to affect my energy levels and sometimes even my sleep quality. One of the culprits I'm sure is the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, a list recently published by smart asset.com ranked Portland, Oregon as #3 on the list of cities with the most depressing winters. #1 was Anchorage, and #2 was Seattle. (see article here https://smartasset.com/mortgage/cities-least-depressing-winters). Not too surprising, since this is typically what our weekly weather forecast looks like:
It was even worse when we lived in Alaska. In the thick of winter, the sun would rise around 10:30 am and set at 3:30 pm. During the week I would rarely even see daylight hours since I was stuck inside a building with very few windows at work. That left me with 10 precious hours to soak up the daylight during the weekend...10 hours TOTAL per WEEK of daylight! It was during this time that I really started to experience symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It was also during this time that I came up with some strategies to help me beat the winter blues.
1. A Happy Light. This was one of my happiest discoveries when we lived in Alaska. A Happy Light is a bright lamp that gives off spectrally balanced light (which is supposed to simulate daylight), designed to help improve mood, energy, and concentration. I generally turn mine on in the morning and set it on my dining room table while I eat breakfast and check emails/work on my laptop. I really do feel like it makes a difference in my energy levels for the day, especially the first part of the day. The general recommendation is to sit by the light for 30 minutes per day, preferably right after waking up. A word of caution: I tried to use the light in the evening when I was feeling down and it actually negatively affected my sleep that night.
2. An engaging book. After Avery goes to sleep, one of my favorite things to do is curl up in bed and get lost in a good book. Part of my struggle with the winter blues is having a really hard time falling asleep. I can't ever seem to turn my brain off, and will often lie in bed for hours trying to get to sleep. I get frustrated because I can't sleep, which makes me less likely to fall asleep, and so on. Reading before bed has been a lifesaver in this case. My book makes me look forward to getting into bed rather than dreading it. It also helps me shut off all the noise in my brain and focus only on what I'm reading. This is the book I've been loving this past week (review coming later):
3. Getting outside (even in the rain). This one is SO important for my sanity! One of my favorite rituals has become taking out the trash and checking the mail on work nights, because it gets me outside on days that I would normally be stuck indoors all day. On my days off, Avery and I make sure to get a little fresh air every day, rain or shine, and it helps enhance my mood and energy A LOT.
4. Regular exercise. Surprise, surprise, right? Some good workout music, my garage, and a hard sweat session always works in boosting my energy levels for the day.
5. A cozy home. During the winter months we spend a lot of time indoors, which is why I have started to make an extra effort during the winter to keep our home a cozy and relaxing place to be. An important part of this is keeping the house clean. I alway feel a sense of unrest when the house is upside-down, so Brandon and I have agreed to make a daily habit out of picking up toys, doing the dishes every night, etc. to help keep our house as clutter-free as possible during the winter. I also like to bring out soft throw blankets and candles in the evenings to add to the coziness of home.
6. Vacation planning. January and February are my favorite times to plan our vacations for the year. It helps me transport myself to a sunny, warm place even if the day is dreary and dark. This year we have a few camping trips, a summer Alaska trip, and a surprise trip on the books so far. The anticipation alone is enough to lift my spirits on a cold February day.
Any other suggestions for how to beat the winter blues? Please let me know in the comments!
I’m Betty and I live in the beautiful pacific northwest. I'm a mommy. Vegetarian. Wife to a meatatarian. Pediatric physical therapist. Outdoor enthusiast. Enjoyer of fitness/healthy living. Even bigger enjoyer wine and chocolate lava cake. And hoping to find some balance between it all.