If you’re anything like me, you’re obsessed with the winter season, perfectly happy to flounce about in its gloriousness until someone drags you away. But if you’re like the other 98 percent of the world, you get a little sad when it’s cold and dreary out, a common ailment also known as the winter blues. No worries, though, as today you and I are on the same team. There could be 20 reasons why you hate winter — you don't like to shiver, you don't like to trudge, you're not motivated, or maybe you're one of those people who experience winter resentment to a particularly severe degree. The aptly named seasonal affective disorder, or "SAD," is a real thing. The Mayo Clinic defines it as "a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons,” typically rearing its ugly little head in the fall by utterly draining you and depleting you of energy and happiness to the point where you begin to question your sanity.
The next thing you know, you’ve got a newfangled SAD-battling light box next to your bed and three boxes of vitamin-infused breakfast bars that taste like charcoal in your cabinet, and just like that, another serious human affliction has been monetized.
So let’s talk about some solutions no doctor would prescribe.
1. Look to the future
There is, of course, something powerful to be said about positive thinking, but taking the extra step to put future (sunnier) plans into action may just be the ultimate distraction.
Whether you’ve been meaning to take a trip someplace where there won’t be a flurry in sight (I suggest Costa Rica or Thailand, as being broke isn’t going to help this winter blues thing either), or there’s a goal you’ve been meaning to start striving for, there’s no better way to fend off blue days than to feel like you’re closer to turning a dream into reality.
2. Exercise... a lot
Science has repeatedly backed up what those people who are into fitness have always known: exercise makes you happier. I’ll say frankly that in my case, if I go a month without working out there’s a significant difference in my demeanor and in the way I feel about my body. We’ve all heard about our bodies’ little happy pills — endorphins. Think of them as tiny SAD light boxes energizing us from the inside out.
It may seem more daunting to wake up, get to the gym, and get moving when it’s freezing and pitch black outside, but you’ll feel better in the morning.
3. Step up ‘dat resilience game
Some psychologists claim that, however counterintuitive it may be, resilience, not happiness, is the opposite of depression.
Think of it this way: you’re in your backyard alone practicing the twerk to show Stephanie when out of nowhere, a rabid bear comes at you full-throttle. You might tell yourself you’re OK with it, but it’s going to be a bit harder to tell yourself that when you’re in a hospital bed. Now imagine that you’re in your backyard jumping up and down in a bounce house, its soft walls structured around you... that bear’s gonna have a tough time getting to you.
Don’t stand there looking innocent, charlatan bear, we all know what you’re up to.
4. Do nice things for others
Altruism as an antidepressant... the idea isn’t as crazy as you’d think. Multiple studies have shown that even those in chronic pain experienced relief when volunteering. I know so many people who have always wanted to contribute to their communities in some way, but have yet to put themselves out there. Taking this opportunity would enable you to meet new people, and feel good about the way you’re living.
Because some days that light box just might not do the trick.
5. Have deeper conversations
Research has shown that talking about more intimate, personal aspects of your life, thus connecting with another human on a deeper level, is much more satisfying emotionally than staying neutral, opting for a topic such as the weather, or perhaps Hailey Baldwin's lips.
Seriously, wtf genes. Wtf.
6. Stop complaining about the cold, and start listening
It can be exceedingly easy to fall into the habit of bitching publicly every time the temperature drops, because life sucks. When you're freezing and it looks like the apocalypse outside your window, complaining is nearly impossible to avoid.
But taking a moment to appreciate your surroundings, as well as the people around you, might give you another perspective. Listening is a cathartic practice, dare I say even more so than speaking. And at the very least, it will take your mind off your own problems for the moment.
*the words of another, they burrrrrrn*
7. Smile until your feelings reflect your face
Crazily enough, this is a method that actually works. According to an article by Psychology Today,
"While happiness creates a smiling facial expression, it is also true that a facial expression that closely resembles the pattern of muscles that are used to express happiness can cause you to experience a corresponding emotion."
So take a tip from Buttercup, and flex those face muscles.
Images: Getty; Giphy (6); Hailey Baldwin/Instagram