Battling the Winter Blues

“They felt about them the deep and thoughtful quiet of winter…”

– Tolkien

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Ever since landing on a frosty February morning in Germany two years ago, I have learned that South Carolina winters are extremely mild. In fact, South Carolina is one of the places people go to vacation during winter, and I no longer wonder why. I usually hit a few weeks of seasonal depression around early February when I lived in SC, but now that half of the year is dull, dreary, dark, and cold, I have had to come up with a different strategy other than just “grinning and bearing it.”

I decided to ask my friends and followers on Instagram if they had any suggestions for battling the winter doldrums, and I was surprised and encouraged by their enthusiastic response. I have compiled all the suggestions into a list below, on the off-chance that someone else may be interested. For the sake of ease and for the purposes of privacy, I have not cited the names of the folks who gave each suggestion. If you are interested in reading the comments yourself, you can go to my original instagram post.  

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  • Take a vitamin D supplement. Colder weather and rain (or snow) means you’re getting outside less often, so the amount of vitamin D absorbed from the sun goes down. My doctor encouraged me to take this supplement year-round while we live in Germany!
  • Planning a big (or little vacation). As one of my friends put it: “Gritting your teeth and just waiting for it to end probably isn’t the best coping mechanism (I’m working on it), but planning for warmer days sort of gives me hope.” Whether it is a trip to Southern Spain (as one friend suggested) or a trip to a town a mile away, getting out and discovering adventure can be a healthy way to add novelty when the weather feels dull.
  • Getting outside, even on yucky days, was encouraged by quite a few people.  Another follower sensibly suggested that warm clothing was a must for this activity. One person wrote “ I absolutely hated winter because I was always cold and couldn’t enjoy doing anything outside. Now, I’ve found that I can go out in 12° weather and be completely comfortable in the right clothing. Layers are your friends, invest in good quality warm ware and one of the most important things I’ve found out if your fingers/toes are cold then the rest of you will feel cold, good gloves and socks are essential.”
  • Sunlamps were also a popular suggestion. Whether they work in reality or merely as a placebo effect, they do seem to have helped everyone I have talked with who uses them.
  • Hot beverages, tea and coffee in particular, are of course a wonderful idea. We’ve gotten into the habit of having a pot of cider on the stove in the evenings, and just dipping into it when we feel like it. Below I have included a recipe for a hot toddy (alcoholic) and apple cider (non-alcoholic).
  • A lot of people mentioned the importance of reflection and meditation. As one person said: “I try reflecting on how for everything, there is a season, and the earth’s seasons are by created design. Little joys can be found in each, so for winter it’s often the coziness of lit fireplaces, hot drinks, no obnoxious biting insects.” I thought that was a beautiful way to look at winter.
  • Good books and warm blankets go beautifully together in the cold season, and a lot of people added this to their list of must-haves for winter.
  • Connection, an essential ingredient to happiness by all accounts, was emphasized as especially important during the dreary days of winter. Reaching out to old friends, writing letters or sending postcards, and facetiming or spending time with family are all good ways to get out of your own headspace during a time where that seems harder than usual.
  • Hot baths and bath bombs are pretty trendy right now, but don’t let that keep you hipster types from indulging if you get the chance! Steam baths have been touted as one of the most underrated healthy activities you can cheaply indulge in.
  • Winter is a perfect time to enjoy and invest in hobbies. One comment read: “having a special passion that you love doing also helps, whether that be reading, doing art, cooking, playing computer, socializing with friends and so on and so forth. Sometimes it’s also about the mindset.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Having a healthy perspective on life is important in all seasons, but especially in winter. I love what one person said in summation of the value of the cold season: “Winter’s cold outside makes the warm inside of my home seem even more like a loving safe haven.” What a beautiful picture of embracing the season.

Thank you again to all of those who contributed ideas to this post; I am beyond grateful for your input!

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Recipe for Apple Cider:

Ingredients:

  1. 32oz organic apple juice
  2. 1 large orange
  3. 1-2 cinnamon Sticks
  4. 1/4 cup chopped and peeled fresh ginger

Add all ingredients into a large pot and simmer on stove for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Recipe for Hot Toddy: (recipe from Garden & Gun Magazine)

Ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup peeled ginger, sliced thin

  2. 1/2 cup honey

  3. 1/2 cinnamon stick

  4. 1/2 cup lemon juice

  5. 2 oz. spiced rum

Heat 1 quart of water in a small saucepan, add ginger, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add honey and whisk until dissolved; add cinnamon stick and lemon juice and continue simmering for 10 minutes more. Strain liquid into a thermos, discarding ginger and cinnamon. (Mixture yields about 8 drinks.) In a tempered glass, pour in rum and 4 ounces of the honey mixture. Garnish with candied ginger or a fresh cinnamon stick.

 

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