Sure-Fire Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

Had enough of the gigantic snow drifts, the biting winds, and the relentlessly grey skies?

Ready to fast-forward to spring?

Hey, me, too!

But odds are we’ve got at least a few more weeks of winter to contend with before the arrival of anything even remotely resembling spring. That can mean a few more weeks of grumpier-than-usual kids (which will almost inevitably result in a grumpier-than-usual you) unless you make a conscious effort to boost your mood (and hopefully theirs, too).

And, yes, it can be done. It’s not something we talk much about (surprising, given the fact that doing battle with the February blahs is part and parcel of being Canadian), but there are things we can do to boost positive emotion, as opposed to simply allowing the weather to dictate our moods (in which case you’re likely looking at another six weeks of grumpiness, at a minimum).

 

From glass half-empty to glass half-full

Here’s the thing: we humans have a built-in negativity bias—which simply means that our minds default to “glass half-empty” mode unless we make a conscious effort to shift that setting to “glass half-full” mode over time.

It makes sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, that we’re hard-wired to default to negative thinking. Our ancestors couldn’t afford to err on the side of optimism when a tiger was about to lunge out of the long grass and eat them for lunch. But now that we have fewer threats to our physical survival to contend with on a daily basis, we can afford to shift our default mood setting from negative to positive.

Doing this requires a conscious and consistent effort over time. If you would like your default mood to be positive, you need to spend as much time as possible shifting yourself into a positive state of mind so that feeling happy becomes your new normal. You can do this by exercising regularly (exercise is a proven mood-booster), reflecting on happy moments, engaging in activities you enjoy, and connecting with people you love. And you can encourage your kids to do all these things, too.

 

The magic of connection

I’m not talking about connecting with people in the online sense of the word, by the way. Research has shown that spending too much time online (and, in particular, spending a lot of time passively reading other people’s social media updates) can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression—the last thing you need on a gloomy February day.  What I’m talking about here is connecting with people face-to-face.

And not only can connecting with people face-to-face help to boost your mood: A hug delivered in person by someone you love can actually deliver some unexpected health benefits. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia concluded that hugs can actually help to protect us from infection and illness-related symptoms by reducing the harmful effects of stress. That’s a cool nugget of information to have at your disposal during cold and flu season, don’t you think?

 

Bring on spring!

This is not to say that combating the February blahs is easy. It can feel like an uphill battle at times, with negative moods spreading from family member to family member. But if the epidemic of grumpiness continues unabated, despite your best efforts, you can take solace in the fact that time is on your side. It won’t be long before that intoxicating first breeze of spring rushes in, providing everyone’s moods with a much-needed boost.

Ahhhh…….

Comments (83)

  • I don’t feel the winter blues as much as before. I use very bright LED light bulbs. I guess the lack of light makes me very depressed.

    Liam
  • I suffer from winter depression. I should try the LED lights on non sunny days

  • I try to focus on more positive in my life which lessens the blues.

    Tracy
  • Winter blues really do exist in our family. We have three very active children so during the winter everyone gets crabby and we all just feel so cooped up. We’ve worked on keeping us all busy this winter and I’d say it’s going better. Still can’t wait for Spring though!!

  • I love the winter. I use to get depressed during the winter months but now I take extra care to get out and enjoy winter as much as possible. We also use LED lights in our family room. We try to keep the kids busy playing games and doing the activities that you just can’t do in spring or summer.

    Lori Humphrey
  • I suffer from the winter blues.I have tried so many things! Thanks for all your suggestions

    Danielle
  • I keep connected with friends through a monthly book club! It really does help get me through the blue season!

    salexis
  • We beat the winter blues, by enjoying the season as a family. When it rains, go outside and play in the puddles! When it’s windy, get the kids to guess how fast the breeze is blowing!

    Yolanda Perez
  • At one point, I was using a DayLight (see http://www.day-lights.com/canadaindex.html) and I found that really helpful. These days, walking seems to be the most effective mood-boosting strategy for me — maybe because it combines physical activity, exposure to sunlight (when we have sunlight!), and social contact (because my husband is my walking buddy). 🙂

  • A great attitude (making a conscious effort to focus on the positive rather than the negative) can take you a long way. If that doesn’t work or the blues are severe or stick around too long, it’s a great idea to check in with a healthcare provider.

  • I can’t wait for spring either — if only because the sidewalks won’t be slippery anymore. 🙂

  • Great strategy — celebrating what is unique/great about winter! It’s definitely a lot more challenging to go skating in spring or summer…. 🙂

  • Talking to other people about how hard you find it to get through the winter months is really important. You’ll probably find that a lot of other people you know are dealing with the same issue — and you can make a pact to cheer/encourage one another along. Or at least that’s how it tends to work for me. (I had an amazing e-mail conversation with a friend about this very subject last week.) 🙂 Hang in there. Pretty soon the groundhog will be looking for his shadow and then (shadow or not) we’ll be in the home-stretch headed for spring.

  • Way to make an author’s day by posting something like this. 🙂 Seriously, book clubs are the best. Not only do you have a built-in excuse to get together with friends every month: you can also tap into the well-documented benefits of bibliotherapy:
    http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier
    It’s the ultimate win-win!

  • I love the way you have made a conscious decision to simply go with the flow. It sure beats feeling frustrated/angry about the weather.

  • There’s some good information here about the science behind light therapy: http://www.day-lights.com/canadaindex.html It’s really interesting stuff…..

  • Here in the PNW, our winters aren’t usually the ideal. We have A Lot of rain and usually very little, if any, snow. It’s too wet and cold to go outside, the skies are always gray, and there’s not much to do in our smaller town. We usually make our own fun indoors with gsmes, movies and tv, reading, music and cuddling among cooking and baking. Or we embrace the nasty weather and have a puddle jumping day. When and if, we do get snow, we try to take full advantage.
    Indoors, we try to make it bright and fun lookong, by decorating for the seasons. Bright colors, LED lights, holiday lights, candles, scents, and comfy, cozy accessories. Just because it’s dull and gray and blah outside, doesn’t mean our house to reflect the same.

  • This is so wise, Ashley: “Just because it’s dull and gray and blah outside, doesn’t mean our house to reflect the same.” Reaching out to others and making your own fun makes a big difference. Scrabble, anyone? 🙂

  • I try to enjoy each day as it comes, time goes by so fast that I don’t dwell on the weather.

    jenniferann1@hotmail.com
  • That’s a great strategy, Jennifer. I’ve also discovered (belatedly, after many, many decades of being Canadian!) that it’s possible to get out there and enjoy the winter weather *if you’re properly dressed*! (It’s such a simple thing, and so obvious, but something that prevented me from enjoying this time of year for far too long.)

  • I dont feel the winter blues to much, sometimes tho I do, but its not to bad

    Margo b
  • I am really looking forward to spring time! Winter is just too long

    ivy pluchinsky
  • At least the weather has given us a bit of a break this year…..

  • Bring on spring……

  • I am not a big lover of the cold, really don’t like it at all. I keep busy though and spring always comes. I also look at the bright side of winter with spending more time in the kitchen cooking those wonderful comfort foods and finding I really do love to cook. Wintertime can find me with cabin fever and my family too, so it’s great to get out on warmer days even if it is just a road trip, really do enjoy those.

    Debbie S.
  • It’s hard to get through winter but we all seem to mange some how alot of helpful great ideas I. This post need to try some of them

    Crystal M
  • No blue season for me. I love the cold

    Kristen mathieu
  • I have always loved the winter months and get all excited when I see we are going to get a blizzard! LOL!!!! One of my friends goes into some serious seasonal depression though. I feel so bad for her

    Kelley Murray
  • Good point about the cooking! I’ve only learned how to make really healthy meals from scratch over the past few years. Now I love making stews and soups — because they taste so good and they make the entire house smell so good.

    And as for seizing the gift that is a warmer-than-usual day: definitely! I do that, too!

  • Glad you found the post helpful, Crystal. Thanks for your feedback!

  • I am *learning* to love the cold. For me, it’s been more of an acquired taste…. 🙂

  • Sorry to hear about your friend’s struggles. It is not easy. I’m happy we had such a great dialogue yesterday — as part of Bell Let’s Talk. I love that campaign and look forward to participating in it each year. The more we talk about our struggles, the easier it is for people to reach out for the support they need. And that benefits us all.

  • I try to enjoy each day as it comes, time goes by so fast that I don’t dwell on the weather. Time passes by way to fast.

  • It’s funny how some days in your life as a parent seem to last forever (like a day when your child gets up at 5 am!) And then entire weeks or months can whiz by in the blink of an eye….. But, you’re right: time passes very quickly when you are raising kids.

  • The best way to beat the winter blues is to get out side and do some thing outsidey! I know it cold, but get in the shed and look around. Was there something you meant to do at the end of fall you didn’t? I’ll bet so. Pick a warmer day and do it. It could be as simple as rearranging the garden tools or getting rid of things you don’t need. Another way to beat the blues is to buy something for the yard. Go to a home improvement store and buy a rake or a gnome that supposed to go outside. Put it there. You’ll feel hopeful.

    Jenny
  • The best way to beat the winter blues is for me to spend time with my kids and husband. Watch a movie, cuddle under a blanket read either by myself or with my kids.

    Monica Nuss
  • Great tips! There’s something really rejuvenating about looking forward to planting that spring garden….

  • What could be nicer than cozying up under a warm blanket with people you love? 🙂

  • Wonderful tips thanks for sharing.

    Nancy Burgess
  • spending time with God whether readying the bible or in praise and worship always lifts my spirits

    denyse Lee
  • Get out and visit with friends. Having drinks around the fire with friends always helps.

    Jeff Toplak
  • Awesome advice! Thanks!

    Amberly Gordon
  • My kids definitely have the winter blues. They can’t wait till the can just run outside barefoot and play!

    tiffany_cherie714@yahoo.com
  • We don’t see snow often and live in the south where it’s warmer. Thankfully we get to play outside year round.

    Caron Kirk
  • We are thinking in 3 to 5 years we should move to the US Virgin Islands so we can miss the winter blues would be best.

    Brandi
  • The last 2 winters have been fairly mild for us. This helps me beat the winter blues, especially when the sun comes out more often. When the weather is more favourable it helps me get outdoors more often, which is a great mood booster.

    Monique L.S.
  • You are very welcome. Thanks for the feedback, Nancy.

  • Spirituality is a proven stress-reliever. It means different things to different people, but it matters…..

  • Friends are hugely important — and it is too easy to put friendships on the back burner when life gets hectic. (And that’s when we need our friends most.)

  • Thanks, Amberly! I appreciate the feedback. Have a great weekend.

  • I know. Me, too! 🙂

  • You are lucky. I love Canada, but I don’t always love snow. 🙂

  • It is definitely a lot easier to convince yourself to head outdoors when you don’t have to head out into a blizzard!

  • our winter days are very cold we cant go out so she just stay inside and watch tv like movies it’s great

    thaliabarban00@gmail.com
  • Watching movies together can spark important conversations and create a bank of shared memories, about times spent talking and laughing together. (My family loves wacky comedies.)

  • I like this article. To beat the winter blues I make an effort to get outside even when it’s cold, I find the fresh air and sunshine helps my mood.

    Nicky
  • Thanks for the tips.

    Amanda McCullough
  • I know I need light in the winter but I suffer from migraines, so I am caught nbetween a rock and a dark place

    Alayne Langford
  • In my family they think I’m from another planet because my days are all the same no winter blues here

    Sohair
  • Thanks, Nicky! Glad you liked the article.

  • You are welcome, Amanda…..

  • That is a tough situation, for sure. Hang in there!

  • You are lucky! 🙂

  • Great tips!

    Jennifer Lo
  • I love your tips! I don’t suffer the winter blues! I do water workout a few times a week, I walk on the treadmill 5 times a week. I get my granddaughters one day a week. Keeping active make me feel good.

    Carole Dube
  • I don’t really get the winter blues, except for a little bit when I have to commute in heavy snow

    Ryan R
  • I’ve noticed my kids are getting a little housebound lately. Sometimes just a whole day out is what we need.

    nicolthepickle (Nicole Graham)
  • Winter come and goes, you just gave to learn how to embrace it

    Theresa
  • I find myself getting more and more wrapped up in the winter blahs, but with three little girls it’s impossible to stay in a negative mood. Even with cloudy skies and a cold wind we still get outside, and I have to say that helps lift my spirits immensely! I also remind myself that time is on my side- Spring is just around the corner!!

    Erinn Lishman
  • You are very welcome!

  • Thanks, Jennifer!

  • Physical activity works wonders for me, too.

  • Commuting is stressful at the best of times — and a snowy day is not the best of times…..

  • A change of scene can work wonders, for sure….

  • Or at least make peace with it, even if you’re not quite ready to embrace it. (I have visions of you hugging a snowman.) 😉

  • It is indeed! It is so warm and mild today that I had to unzip my coat. That made me very happy.

  • I try to get out as much as possible

    Rosalind Rumball
  • This year hasn’t been “that” bad for the winter blahs compared to normal. It’s also been unseasonably warm lately which definitely doesn’t hurt. 🙂

    Lisa
  • Good plan. (Me, too!)

  • It definitely does not hurt at all. It felt *so great* to be able to walk in the sunshine this afternoon.

  • Thank you for posting about this topic. I always suffer from the winter blues each year. I love the idea of using LED lights during dreary days.

    Rushell Tuggle
  • This is a very interesting article. I like doing some interesting activities with my family during winter. We are transforming winter blues to great quality time! Just a movie marathon, a zip of hot choco and more cuddling with my little daughter makes this season very positive for me.

    Ana Aquino
  • We try to go down south once every winter to get rid of the winter blues. A bit of sunshine never hurts.

    Nicole L

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