This year is bluer than most—and this may be the bluest winter on record. Fight the winter blues in five ways.
Winter can be hard, mentally and emotionally, in a good year, let alone in a pandemic. This year the winter blues might hit many of us harder than ever.
In yoga, it’s understood that we get our life force, or prana, from one of three sources: food, the sun, and our breath. In the winter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), there is less prana available from the sun. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. It’s colder outside so we don’t soak up the little sun that’s available.
One of the reasons we have so many holidays clustered around the Winter Solstice (Dec 21–22) is because it’s the longest, darkest night of the year. One of the antidotes to this cold and depressing time is gathering together, lighting candles or the Christmas tree, and sharing food. This year, the season of indoor parties is likely going to look pretty different—so we don’t even have those gatherings to look forward to. Add pandemic fatigue, climate challenges, and fears about the future and our winter blues might seem a little bluer.
Here are a few ideas for ways to manage the winter blues.
1. Get Outside
Yes. Get outside. Every day.
Get whatever gear you need to be comfortable going for a walk in the rain, snow, or wind, and get out there. Find a tree to talk to. Even 20 minutes walking in winter weather will give you a tiny bit of vitamin D and a little bit of exercise (Read our article on mindful walking). This is still the safest way to socialize, so recruit a friend and wear a mask—which is a bonus because the mask will keep your face warmer.
Just because we’re supposed to physically distance doesn’t mean we should be emotionally distanced. We still need communities. A Harvard study on adult development found that close relationships were better predictors of happiness into older age than money or IQ.
Relationships don’t only have to happen in person, though this is a good time to connect intimately with whoever is in your bubble. Video chat platforms are fantastic for hosting a small gathering of friends or family from anywhere, even if it’s just for a quick catch-up before a holiday dinner with your household. If you don’t like video technology, go for an old-fashioned phone call, write an email, or even handwrite a letter.
One of the best things we can do when we’re feeling low is to help someone else. Many studies have shown that when we get out of our own heads and focus on what we can do for someone else, happiness and meaning follow quickly.
Many of us are feeling helpless these days, so think about what you can do. Can you tutor someone in a topic you know something about? Volunteer for an organization you care about? Make a donation? Pick up groceries for a neighbor? Make some kind of art that someone else will enjoy?
4. Embrace the Slow Down
Our circadian rhythms naturally match up with the weather and the seasons. When it’s colder and darker outside, our spirits naturally want to slow down and spend more time in rest and reflection. Lean into these natural desires. This might be a nice time to take up journaling, meditation, restorative or yin styles of yoga, or a dedicated practice of delightfully hot baths.
5. Breathe (and Eat)
When we don’t have the sun to give us prana, we do still have food and breath. Five minutes a day of deep belly breathing can work wonders for our sense of calm and connection. Food is also an important source of energy. Make sure you are eating lots of colorful foods, especially in-season vegetables like sweet potatoes and kale, and cook them up into warming soups and stews to feed your body what it needs in the winter months.