Growing up, I never really felt the effects of daylight savings time and shorter, colder days. As a kid, my bedtime was always the same whether the sun had finished setting or not, and in college, I was always down to go out regardless of how cold it was (oh, to be young and fun again!). Now, as an almost 30-year-old with a full-time job, less energy, and more responsibilities, I’m beginning to feel the negative effects of shorter days. Since I spend most of each day in an office and don’t leave until 5 p.m., I only get a short period of sun in the mornings (that is if it’s not cloudy).
In the summer, I take advantage of the extra daylight by grabbing a rooftop drink after work, but in the winter, all I can think of doing is heading home and crawling right into bed. If you also live in parts of the world that get cold, cloudy, and dark this time of year, you could probably use a few tips to get you through to spring. Read on for the five ways I pick myself up when the winter blues are getting me down.
1. Start a new hobby
In years past, I’ve spent the winter months becoming one with my couch, binging Netflix, and rationing the last of the Christmas cookies. Don’t get me wrong, this is still my idea of a perfect Friday night, but this year, I’ve decided to be a bit more intentional about how I spend my down time. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through my phone while lounging on the couch, I decided to pick up cross-stitching. It was one of my favorite hobbies as a kid and it’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it, making it the perfect activity to do while watching TV. Since I started a few weeks ago, I’ve been looking forward to coming home at night to work on my current project. If cross-stitching isn’t calling your name, you could also try adult coloring books, baking, reading, or a hobby for your enneagram. Feeling stuck inside isn’t so bad when you have a something to look forward to at home.
2. Make your home cozy
Hygge is my love language, so I pride myself on having a cozy home during cold, winter months. The state of my physical surroundings can have a big impact on my mental health (for better or worse), so having a space where I enjoy spending time is helpful when cold weather is bumming me out. I focus on keeping my home tidy, lighting my favorite candles, and having plenty of blankets to snuggle up with. Even if you’re not a homebody like me, set up your home to have all your favorite things in one place and turn your living space into your own personal sanctuary. It makes another night at home much more enjoyable and you might even look forward to the sun setting at 4 p.m.
3. Wake up earlier
OK, hear me out. I know getting up at 6 a.m. isn’t easy—especially when it’s cold and the sun has barely risen—but I’ve found that starting my day earlier and getting to bed earlier helps me feel my best through the daylight savings changes. Since it’s dark by the time I leave the office, I like to work out, run errands, or just sit and read by the window in the morning so I can spend as much time as possible soaking up the sunlight. Getting more light might even help with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, so if you work in an office or have limited windows until the sun sets, wake up a little earlier to fit in sunlight whenever you can.
4. Stay active
If you’re anything like me, your favorite place to be when it’s cold outside (or let’s be honest, any time) is in bed. The desire to be tucked under the covers at all times combined with indulging in less-than-nutritious holiday treats often leaves me feeling lethargic and in the mood to hibernate all winter. While resting and recovering are important parts of self-care and the body needs different things during different seasons (AKA if you’re feeling more lethargic this time of year, that’s OK), I know that staying active makes my mind and body feel best. Exercise is an instant mood booster and stress reducer, which we can all use when we’re feeling down during this time of year. If you’re really not feeling like getting off your couch, don’t force yourself into a five-mile jog or intense HIIT class. Instead, bundle up and go on a walk if it’s not too cold outside, do relaxing yoga in your living room, or dance around your kitchen while baking (yes, that counts as exercise too).
5. Create a Routine
It’s the middle of winter, which means the holidays are over but spring still feels so far from our reach. All the days start to feel the exact same (cold and monotonous), and it’s easy to fall into a mental health slump. When I start to feel bored, sluggish, and overall blah, I revert to my favorite morning and evening routines to keep me feeling motivated and calm. As a Virgo moon, sticking to a routine comes easily to me, but if your daily routine feels too, well, routine, try to add different practices to make your mornings, evenings, and self-care feel more enjoyable. Having a go-to routine can help decrease stress, improve your mood, and improve sleep, which are results we all want this time of year.