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.


Comments (20)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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

  • 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 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:
    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: 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.
  • 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.)

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