Winter is here. For some, winter is a time of prioritized coziness, while others see it as a test of mental strength. As the sun takes a brief hiatus, the car takes 10 minutes to warm up, and daily walks evolve into Netflix binge sessions, diverse winter experiences unfold. Regardless of polarizing winter opinions, we have the power to shape how we want to approach this season until spring is here in no time.
As a Counselor, I urge my Clients to participate in self-care, daily doses of fresh air and movement despite our nature to remain sedentary. It may sound easier to some than others, and those with predisposed depression symptoms may feel the weight of the world extra heavy. Each year, I try to approach winter woes with new enthusiasm to combat the slump winter may bring. Here are my 5 non-negotiables to lift seasonal depression during extra cloudy days.
1. Self Compassion, Grace and Understanding
- Adjusting the mindset surrounding winter can be tricky to navigate, yet allows for room to expand our perspective. Often, we can beat ourselves up for feeling down, letting the “shoulds” place unneeded pressure on our actions, digging ourselves into a place of self-loathing. It may sound like, “I should be reading my book for class tomorrow or, “I should use my time to be more productive”. Instead of taking that route, it’s crucial to allow some wiggle room during the winter months. I show myself compassion by nurturing my body’s needs and letting expectations go. Some days, I may feel ready to accomplish a new task, whereas others, I allow my body the grace to get extra rest. Each day brings a new beginning, new energy, and a chance to try something new. It’s never too late to show yourself kindness.
2. Daily Dopamine Boost
- During seemingly mundane weeks, make it a priority to have something to look forward to each day. Winter may bring feelings of isolation, darkness, and discomfort. This means taking extra time to foster intentional connection is important to change up the routine and break up the week. For instance, planning social outings, coffee runs, group workouts, movie nights, or home-cooked meals can add some zest to the day. It can be as big or small as you please. Choosing one thing that will without a doubt, boost your dopamine daily may lift your mood. Keeping eyes on the horizon by creating positive memories while looking forward to the next day may increase feelings of motivation and enhance resilience.
3. Winter Wellness Routine
- Our body’s needs change throughout the seasons, making winter a special time to prioritize the dedication our body craves. Pausing to reflect on what your body is telling you may help gain insight into areas that need extra care during the winter months. Everyone’s routine may fluctuate, but during this season, I require warm meals, soft lighting, and lots of extra attention to my skincare routine. Prioritizing nourishing hot meals supports overall well-being and, paired with ambient lighting, creates a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Tailoring my routine and environment to something I look forward to not only enhances my mood but also my motivation. Ultimately, embracing personalized winter wellness fosters a deeper connection with oneself, allowing for moments of reflection.
4. Habit Stack
- Habit stacking is an essential component of staying on top of chores when you would prefer to do anything else. How it works if you use pre existing habits and pair them with a new habit, creating a sequence. This “stacking” method allows for seamless integration of the new behavior. For instance, I listen to podcasts as a way to wind down after work; however, I need to do my laundry. Now I listen to my podcast while folding laundry, making a mindless task more enjoyable with a habit I already had. This technique can be particularly beneficial in morning and night routines, where it can seem as if time slips before your eyes. Make your life easier and simplify the process by building on your foundation.
5. Lean into it
- Living with the seasons has been my most recent addition to winter thriving, and it may be my favorite so far. As a Counselor who has autonomy over their schedule, it can be easy to use winter as a time to grind and work overtime. Time and time again, “forcing things” never works well in the end, often creating feelings of frustration and irritability. This year I have been more intentional about embracing what winter brings. Winter brings a time of rest and relaxation, nights in with friends, and comfy clothing. Instead of resisting the natural ebb and flow of the season, I am learning to lean into it. Allowing the chilly nights to be a cue for taking things slow, finding peace in the quiet, and turning down the dial. Aligning the season’s rhythm with my everyday life brings a sense of harmony and flow.
Navigating seasonal depression requires giving yourself all the self-compassion. How you speak to yourself can shape your experience this season. Let expectations go, and cherish this cozy season. Find warmth and well-being through the connection of others until spring is here in no time.