Five Ways to Heal Through the Coldest Winter Ever

I want to start this off by acknowledging that seasonal depression is real af, and it’s a real bitch. I know how the cold winter months can drastically affect our moods, even to the point of developing seasonal affective disorder. It’s true for so many folks living in places like Toronto or New York, and it happens every damn year! I, too, have been a reluctant host to the unwelcome guest that is seasonal depression, with last winter being the absolute hardest for me. Every time I stepped outside, all I was able think of was how long it would be before I could return home to curl back up into my warm bed. The frigid cold, the long hours of darkness, the post-holiday blues, all of it put me in a bad mood and drained my energy on a daily basis. The constant low vibrational energy eventually seeped into my life as a whole, and I fell into a deep darkness. It was awful; soul-sucking, really — and I’ll just leave it there. Remarkably, I’ve noticed that this winter has been different for me, because I’ve learned how to manage it more effectively (and of course thanks to therapy), so I wanted to share a few helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way. I also want to preface by suggesting that we refrain from thinking of these tips as ‘answers’ to happiness, but understand them as different ways to manage depression, to ultimately shake off the funk that we might be in. I hope it helps!

Take a vacation. Seriously, if you have the means to do it, do it. And I suggest traveling somewhere with a completely different atmosphere to where you live. I am listing this as my first tip, because I believe we all need to prioritize setting aside time for ourselves to travel, especially around this time of the year. It’s usually exciting to be in a new place for the first time, so it’s the perfect way to uplift your spirits and just reset. Last January was a particularly low point for me, and I was desperately itching to get away from my mundane, home-to-work and work-to-home routine. I actually had to convince my partner at the time to take a trip some place warm and we were lucky enough to affordably visit The Bahamas, which was exactly what I needed and more. Even something as simple as basking in the toasty sun made me feel so much closer myself again. Soaking up the much needed Vitamin D directly from the ultimate source was just what my soul was longing for, and they’re saying it may have a direct co-relation to seasonal affective disorder. For me, it is mostly about giving my thinking mind a break so I can take time to feed my soul by enjoy some of the wonderful things life has to offer. (Side note: getting through the holidays can be hella stressful too, which is a big part of why I’m an advocate for January/February vacays). Experiencing a lifestyle that is completely different to what you’re normally used to at home is a great way to shake off the winter blues. Being worry-free about what responsibilities await your return is an honest luxury. Allow yourself the gift of pressing pause on your so-called ‘real life’ — it’s so refreshing. And when you do, you really shouldn’t dwell on having to ‘get back to reality’ when the trip is coming to an end; the vacation is your reality. Relish in that, fully; and maybe you’ll notice that you brought some of that vacation lifestyle back home with you.

Get some indoor plants. Noticing the continuous rows of dry, barren trees without the outline of holiday lights glistening on their branches is extremely dull to look at and can even be mind-numbing. I remember missing the aroma of freshly mown grass in community parks and the blooming gardens of neighbourhood front yards. We, as humans, are biologically wired to respond to being close to nature — take a look at some of the countless benefits — that’s why filling our home environment with various types of greenery (typically ones don’t heavily rely on direct sunlight to thrive) is a perfect way to maintain that beginning-of-spring feeling all year round.

Brave the cold and just go outside. This was the most challenging thing for me to do last winter, hands-down, and if you live in Toronto, you probably remember how bad last winter really was. Still, I have to admit that whenever I did go against everything my mind and body were telling me to do, and bundled myself up for a brisk ten minute or so walk around the block, I would feel significantly better than I had before. After getting past the first (almost) unbearable thirty to sixty seconds of bitter cold, and harvesting mind-over-matter thoughts like never before, it slowly becomes tolerable as our bodies are built to naturally adjust to being in freezing temperatures. I think there is something undeniably beautiful about winter skies, and I was using that to feed my soul. My curiosity was something that encouraged me to get outside on the days that were particularly hard for me; where I was only going out to see how big the moon appeared that night, or if the clouds were starting to turn pink and purple as the sun was setting way too early, or if I could see which stars were shining extra bright on those clear, dark nights. These little moments of joy made astronomical improvements to how I was feeling, and I knew I needed as much of it as I could get. I know that everyone may not relate to this feeling, so if you’re someone who’s motivated by things that have been proven by science, there are some surprising health benefits that cold temperatures have on our bodies, like burning calories, improved sleep quality and healthier skin, to name a few.

I know that even in saying all of this, it can still be hard for us to brave the cold weather, but I’m only suggesting that we commit to trying.

Make those money moves. Regardless of how long we can endure being outside in the winter, we’ll still end up spending more of our time indoors that we normally would compared to warmer seasons. Depending on how you look at it, it may be a blessing in disguise, because it’s an opportunity to make use of the extra time in a productive way. I think we could all take advantage of it by beginning or continuing to explore things we may have wanted to do in the past. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new craft or maybe a new language (like I have been saying to others and to myself about learning Spanish for the past three years 😅), now is the time. If you’ve ever wished you had more free time to develop your new business plan or novel idea, that wish is sort of granted to you during the winter months. And don’t worry if this doesn’t apply to you; it’s always a great time to pick up a healthy hobby, or map out a new five-year-plan, or create inspiring vision boards for your future — anything that will align yourself closer to your purpose and ultimately bring you happiness.

Spread a little extra love and kindness. Last and the exact opposite of least, this is the one thing that each and every one of us could use a bit more of during these figurative and literal cold times, my friends. Even after the above-listed things have been accomplished and more, it’s still very possible to find ourselves feeling down in the dumps. I want to recognize that, because those feelings are valid and they are absolutely okay. We are such complex beings. There could be a multitude of factors that lead to some of us having a bad temper and showing it, or maybe being unkind to other people — I mostly find this especially true when I’m interacting with strangers — and we’re usually blind to those other factors. If this does happen, I think responding to it with an extra dose of kindness and warmth, as an opposition to the coldness we are faced with, is the best solution. We lose nothing in doing this. A smile or a thoughtful gesture, or just personally embodying what you want to see more of in this world can bring about a little bit of joy that can make a very large impact. You may even find yourself in higher spirits when trying this out too; I know that I always do.

How do you keep your spirits lifted and your soul full during the cold winter months? Share them with me, and share this with your circles if you found it helpful!

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