The twinkling holiday lights are finally stashed, you've got new gadgets and gizmos to play with, and the houseguests have (hopefully!) gone home. Ah, contentment. You'd think, right? But instead, you just can't shake that low-energy, tired, foggy-brain heaviness. Why the malaise?
Two words: winter blues. This season of discontent is believed to affect many of us and is tied to shorter days with less sunlight, the fall time change and other factors that leave our internal clock hands spinning haywire. For some, these feelings take on an exaggerated form known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or-perfect acronym-SAD.
Robert Cutrow, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Gelbart and Associates in Redondo Beach, says commonplace winter doldrums and the more serious SAD are very real. "About 5% of the U.S. population has SAD, although it's rare to see this diagnosis in Southern California. It's more prevalent in northern areas where there's less sunlight."
Still, says Cutrow, though we're fortunate to live in a climate with a milder, sunnier winter than other parts of the country, it's still common for us to feel a little down this time of year. The holidays and all the associated memories, along with less social activity after they pass, can do a number on our happiness quotient.
But it is possible to keep seasonal melancholy in check; the power of the mind-body connection is key. Knowing you're not alone may be the first feel-better on the list. Here are 10 more ways to help you see the bright side of winter.
1. EXERCISE. Yes, it's a great cure-all, but how to motivate off the couch? Consider lacing up the running shoes and exploring a new neighborhood or taking a historical walking tour. Head to the mountains for the day and relish winter by snowshoeing or mastering snowboarding once and for all. Or hit the indoor pool at your gym-dive in and think how swimsuit-ready you'll be by June.
2. EAT RIGHT. Combine exercise with a healthy diet (go easy on starches, which leave you feeling lethargic, and up the ante on nutrient-rich foods) for more pep in your step, guaranteed.
3. GET LOST IN A PROJECT. Closet-organizing on your resolution list? Painting the playroom? Tackle both and do wonders for your sense of accomplishment-perfect for banishing winter blahs. Productivity is an instant mood-lifter.
4. BUY A NEW COAT OR SCARF. Or if closet-cleaning was a success, you may find that old favorite you forgot you had! Research shows that retail therapy lifts spirits. (Well, that's what anecdotal evidence gathered by women has shown, anyway!)
5. GET OUT THERE!
Part one: A weekend jaunt energizes the soul and spirit. Get immersed in planning-what are the hot-spots and must-sees? You can also use winter downtime to get a jump on your summer vacation plans. While everyone in the northern climes is cozying up under a blanket of snow, you'll be scooping up July's best travel deals.
6. GET OUT THERE! Part two: Don't isolate yourself indoors and withdraw socially, no matter how tempting it is to reach for your bunny slippers at dusk. Stay active with friends; surround yourself with people who make you want to be your best self.
7. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. Pick up a good new read-something inspirational or travel-related (see #5). Or one that's been hogging real estate on your reading list far too long.
8. TAKE A CLASS. We all have something we've been meaning to learn or try. Now's a great time for beginner French, martial arts, aerial fitness lessons. Try to push your boundaries ... the sky's the limit!
9. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. If a gratitude journal is too "Oprah" for your taste, you can still keep track of all you're thankful for. Remind yourself of one thing each day.
10. TALK TO SOMEONE. If you think you might have a more serious condition or can't shake feelings of depression, talk to your doctor. Treatment for SAD or general (not seasonal) depression is available.