In winter we discuss summer with such reverence. In January you’d think we were talking about a family pet that passed away. “Remember Summer? I miss Summer. I have photos of Summer. That’s when we were a happy family.” – Jim Gaffigan, pale American comedian
To make it through the winter season in Vienna is a rough business. The glittering, joy-filled Christmas markets that were once distracting you from staring blankly into Vienna’s now gray, sunless sky have been packed up and put away. The fireworks your neighbors insisted on shooting off well past January 1st have been used up. Easter is coming, but it isn’t until April 16th, so painted eggs and lamb shaped cakes still have several months to kick back and relax before their time arrives.
With the holiday break over, school in session, and work in full swing, what’s a Vienna resident (or anyone who’s anti-winter) to do with all this freezing cold, gray weather nonsense? In my experience, the temptation is to wallow, and wallow hard. But this year, I have a game plan which focuses on the busying of all 5 senses during those days it’s simply too cold to embrace the winter season. Here are my tips on how to fight the winter blues:
For your ears
It’s hard to want to dance and sing at the top of your lungs when the weather begs for The Beatles’ “I’m So Tired” on repeat, but it’s possible that if you played upbeat music despite your winter weather-matching mood, you could feel like summer is hanging out with you in your living room. Studies have shown a positive correlation between good moods and happy music, so when you’re feeling low, turn on some of your favorite upbeat tunes, then dance a little – or a lot!
If you’re not sure where to begin, feel free to use my Give Me Sunshine playlist. Made up of classic rock, oldies, folk, indie and other genres, this playlist focuses on the light, bright, sunny and beautiful.
Favorite sing loudly and twirl around songs include ‘Good Day Sunshine’, ‘Up, Up, Up’, ‘Do You Wanna Dance’, and ‘Go Do’.
For your eyes
Light Therapy is a common at-home treatment for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The light given out by happy lights, or energy lamps, imitates sunlight, making it feel like the sun has personally joined you for a coffee indoors. We bought our own 2 years ago during a particularly emotionally and physically difficult winter and have continued to use it every winter since. Prices and light strength vary on the brand and purpose, therefore I recommend doing some research to ensure your exact needs are met and possibly talking with your doctor to make sure light therapy is a good choice for you. This is the light we have and use every morning before we disperse for work and school.
A different or additional option is to display happiness where you can see it every day. Print out new, precious pictures of yourself with loved ones, places you’ve been, or all the ones you posted on Instagram when your editing skills were on point. Hang up words of affirmation or a painting you’re proud of. Flood the front of your fridge with encouraging and/or calming scriptures, or quotes that make you laugh. Buy a few house plants and colorful flowers. Anything that to you says You are ROCKING IT this winter – put it where you can see it.
For your nose
I always, always feel calmer and happier when my home smells like a freshly baked cookie or spa. We have a tiny addiction to IKEA’s crazy cheap candles and usually have one burning something heavenly on the regular. When we’re out of candles, we scent our house with essential oils and it’s good stuff. Smell has a strong connection to the brain, stimulating memories and emotions as well as boosting spirits. If you’re like me and the darkness of winter is anxiety inducing, I recommend looking into oils and blends that will help calm you down, like eucalyptus, lavender, anxiety ease or stress relief. There are tons of oils and blends to choose from, along with recipes on how to create your own desired scent. Right now I’m obsessing over a topical kid-friendly blend that smells like pine trees and it seems to both brighten my afternoons and calm me down when life stresses me out. You can spray your scent, wear your scent via roll on or diluted with a carrier oil, or diffuse your scent with a diffuser of your choice. This is the one I got for Christmas and I love love love it.
Go here for more information on the use and benefits of essential oils.
For your hands
If I had 2 hours all to myself to do one activity, I would __________ .
Crochet? Knit? Drum? Play guitar? Woodwork? Write? Letter? Scrapbook? Cook? Larp?
In the winter months, it’s especially important to carve out time for yourself to do whatever it is that has a positive effect on your mood. Think about the hobbies that make you smile and bring you to your center. For me, that’s writing, baking and coloring – the “adult” kind, because it’s cool now. When the dreariness out my window is making me feel everything but happy, that’s a signal to me to do something therapeutic for myself. Try to avoid the temptation to hibernate in bed or Netflix your weekend away by busying your hands instead.
If you’re a fellow colorer and looking for new, calming material, I’ve listed links to my current coloring books in case you want to give them a try. I find going between a regular coloring book and one filled with positive scripture to be very encouraging and relaxing.
5. For your tastebuds
I’m a chronic snacker. I like to blame nursing for my snacking habit, but the truth is I’ve always been digging through pantries and cabinets for something tasty. I’m like Pooh Bear fervently looking for a honey jar, only instead of a honey jar I’m searching for something chocolatey.
Like smell, taste also has a strong connection with our brains, and eating something you really enjoy as well as eating healthy, can have a positive effect on how we feel. Be sure to drink water regularly throughout the day and balance your meals with the good stuff (and by that I mean fruits and vegetables, not cookies and cake even though I think we can all agree cookies and cake are way better). And don’t forget your favorite hot beverage of choice. Mine is and will always be coffee, followed by homemade hot chocolate, then black tea with milk and sugar. Some people enjoy a mug of hot water with lemon so as to both hydrate and feel the comforts only a hot beverage can bring. I have not latched onto this drink because hot water is… boring… and lemony water reminds me of every time I’ve ever been carsick. But if that’s intriguing to you, by all means do give it a try.
My favorite healthy snack is raw carrots dipped in humus, and my favorite sweet snack is chocolate chip cookies. The recipe for my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe is below for those interested. (Psssst, chocolate chips can be substituted with chocolate chunks.)
These are a few ways I’ve found to keep myself physically and mentally healthy when I’m unable to go outside, be it lack of will power or illness. However, I do very much support embracing winter as much as one can by going out for fresh air and friendships. I recommend reading Michelle’s post on this very subject for ideas and inspiration, especially to those living in Vienna. Read Embracing the Winter Weather to find out how to go about it.
Exercise is another great way to stay in good mental and physical shape when it’s frigid out. This method of self-care can be particularly difficult for the moms of Vienna when running with the stroller or mama/baby yoga in the park are no longer an option. For tips on how to keep fit both at home and in a fitness class, I recommend reading Erin’s 6 Ways You Can Exercise with Your Kids.
How to you avoid the winter blues? Share your tips below!