How to Feel Good During Bleak Winters

Every January, I sacrificially cut my hair with children’s safety scissors to appease Punxsutawney Phil and his monopoly over winter.

Not really-- that’s not exactly why I do it.

I do it because of the way that winter affects me.

There’s a sudden slump after the December holidays, when winter cheer diminishes and the hot chocolate disappears before the dreary, grey slush of January.

The days are short, and the sun is weak. My Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression, becomes real burden during this time, and I struggle to be productive.

Seasonal depression can cause symptoms such as too much sleep, irritability, sadness, low energy, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and even suicidal thoughts. 

In the latter half of winter, I find myself relying on drastic changes to keep things interesting.

Clutching the sheared ends of my hair in fists, I’d feel at ease for a moment.

I thought, somehow, my depression was linked to the 12 inches of hair I had let define me.

People always complimented me on my hair, praising it for its length and health.

To cut it felt like I was begging people to look beyond my hair to see me.

Year after year, in a fit of self-doubt and craving change, I held children’s scissors and stood in my bathroom, desperate for some semblance of transformation.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found healthier, more impactful ways to keep life interesting and transformative in January and February. 

Of course, seasonal affective disorder is still something I deal with yearly. Now, however, I do not let it define my life.

Using the following tips, I have found a way to be more at ease during the bleak winter months.

Sit in the sun

This step has the biggest effect because of how easy it is to incorporate into your routine.

Seasonal depression comes in part from a lack of serotonin received from the sun in winter months.

One of the most recommended treatments for seasonal depression is just sitting in light.

If you have access to a light box, that may be preferable if you can’t go outside.

Still, natural light has such an influence on the way you may feel.

I’ve learned that my happiness directly correlates to how much time I spend in the sun.

It’s hard to tan or sunbathe in the winter, but it is still so essential.

If you find yourself drained during the winter, sitting by a window will make a world of a difference.

Every day, I sit outside Dauer Hall for about two hours just so I can get the sunlight I would typically get in summer.

On days that this is not feasible, my symptoms are much worse.

I would definitely recommend this first to anyone noticing a difference in attitude during the winter.

Learn a language

Don’t just binge Duolingo! Take the time to carefully understand the interworking of another language.

It’s fun to talk in accents and find purpose in globalization.

I’ve really relied on this tip in particularly bland periods of my life.

Apps like Duolingo and Memrise commodify learning into a fun and competitive way to improve yourself and understand the world outside the Anglosphere.  

Exercise

Exercising is a great way to relieve stress and stay active.

Running and yoga will help you stay warm in these winter months.

Also, doing yoga means you get to wear those cute pants from Lulu Lemon.

Still, exercise has been linked with an increase in endorphins, which will surely help when dealing with seasonal depression. 

Speak to someone at the CWC

If your symptoms are debilitating and getting in the way of your daily functions, it is essential that you take the step to see someone.

Especially if you experience thoughts regarding suicide, you should seek professional help to get better.

Seasonal depression is difficult to face. You may feel lost, broken and so unlike yourself without really understanding what is happening to you.

I find that these tricks have helped me to find sanity and comfort in rather bleak months.