How to prevent the Winter Blues and Be your Own Light
You would think that us norsewomen thrived in the dark.
We who are born under the northern stars, we who learned as children not to sing at the Aurora Borealis, we who have the coldness of winter imprinted in our veins.
And yet, the wonder of heavy snow falling slowly on a peaceful earth is outweighed by the dread that creeps in when the days become colder and the nights grow longer.
Winter is coming.
And it’s a long, cold and dark one – especially for those of us who tend to suffer from the winter blues.
Last winter was the first winter in a very long time that I didn’t fall into a deep depression. For more than a decade, I have always struggled during the darkest months, particularly with low energy and exhaustion, sadness and heightened anxiety.
Thankfully, there are a lot of different things you can do to prevent and ease winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Personally, I have found both medication and light therapy very helpful, but there are a lot of things you can do for yourself naturally too.
A reader e-mailed me this question, and I found it very profound and beautiful.
How can I be my own light and sunshine in the winter?
Well, here are my best tips for the upcoming months.
How to be your own light during the dark winter months
Know that you ARE light
You may not be aware of it, but you are in fact radiating light all of the time. You are a shining beacon. The light is less visible than natural light, but just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.
Keep your pulse up
When your surroundings are dark and cold, it is wonderful to experience warmth from within. Our bodies are wonderful like that, if only you move around – you are heating yourself up from the inside out. Get your pulse up – and turn that inner flame into a blazing inferno. Try fun ways to move around such as dancing and team sports.
Surround yourself with fire
Nothing beats the fuzzy warm feeling you get from reading in candlelight or the light from a fireplace. If you don’t have the luxury or a fireplace, lots of candles will do the trick. I also suggest bringing a group of friends out into the woods to make a fire and tell stories. S’mores anyone?
You can’t shine if your toes and fingers are blue and you are visibly shaking. Layer up with lots of wool and a big cowl. Bonus points if you have knitted it yourself!
Gratitude can light up the darkest of days. Make it a habit each day to write down at least three things you are thankful for. If you want a fun variation of this, try to write a love list or an excitement-list. What are you wildly interested in?
Invest in a daylight lamp
It may seem drastic, but investing in a daylight lamp is the best thing I have ever done. I placed it right next to my computer screen, and I use it whenever I sit by the computer (which is quite a lot…). After I started using the lamp, I have more energy and I find it easier to focus and concentrate. Especially if you suffer from SAD, it is well worth the investment.
Follow the nature, not fight it
The rest of nature is slowing down for winter. Some animals hibernate – and so should you. The plants and the trees rest. Slowing down in winter is a vital part of the cycle of life, and if your inclination is to sleep and rest more, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Try to go with nature, instead of fighing it. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Sometimes the problem isn’t that you have less energy, but that you think you should have more.
When there is less natural sunlight around, it helps to imagine that it is there. For this purpose, I find Danielle Laporte’s light scanning mediation amazing. If you already own the Desire Map, you can access it in the online resources. If you don’t, I highly recommend getting it right now!
Cultivate good memories
When the summer memories are fading, it can be really uplifting to spend some time cultivating the memories. Print some photographs, share the memories with good friends and put your souvenirs where you can see them. The sun may be temporarily gone, but memories are forever.
Surround yourself with inspiration
Nothing beats the feeling of lighting up in a rush of inspiration. For this purpose, I highly recommend allowing yourself to spend some guilt-free time on Pinterest. Magazines are also a great source of inspiration, and so are The Freedom Experiment archives!
Listen to sunny music
Some songs just light you up from the inside out. I made a playlist for you! Crank up the volume, put on your best outfit and dance away!
Soak in the light you’ve got
In winter, the clear and sunny days are also usually the coldest. But don’t let this be an excuse to stay inside! You need the sunlight, and you need to soak in it. Think about getting your dose of sunlight as taking your medication when you’re sick. You just do it, even though it tastes foul. Stock up with blankets and warm clothing, make a cup of tea, find a spot in the sun where you are shielded from wind – and sit down. Close your eyes and visualize being on the beach. To make it convincing, you can even put on a wave soundtrack. Soak in the sunshine. Take it all in. And relax.
Take vitamin D
If you live in a place where you get limited sunlight during winter, you may have to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is found in few dietary sources, so the best way to get your dose is to take supplements. Before you start taking supplements (of any kind, really) check with your GP, and ask for a blood test to check your vitamin D levels while you’re at it.
Drink liquid sunshine
You know what I mean when I say liquid sunshine, right? Freshly pressed orange juice … and champagne! Of course! The orange juice will literally get your juices flowing, and the champagne… well, there are no dietary reasons for this, but a little dose of bubbles in good company every now and then will definitely make you – paramtsjjj – bubbling with happiness!
Eat bright food
There are two types of happiness foods, one type that makes you temporarily happy and one type that makes your happiness last, grow and overflow. Sugar and carbs fall into the first category, and brightly colored veggies in the other. In winter, we are naturally inclined to crave the carbs, fat and sugar foods to insulate, and stock up on energy for hibernation. However, as you can imagine, this makes your blood sugar go haywire, and most of us already have enough fat levels to survive though winter anyway. Please note that I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t eat these foods. What I am saying is that eating more brightly colored veggies will help make you feel sustained from within, both physically and mentally. Eat your rainbow foods and be happy!
Those crisp winter nights are perfect for stargazing. Layer up, walk into the woods and bring a map of the constellations. Think about how the light from the stars are from stars that are dead already. Think about how vast the universe is. Think about how the stars are burning for you. Enjoy.
Look for the light piercing in from the cracks
One of Leonard Cohen’s most quoted lines, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” is a beautiful guideline for winter. Because although everything seems dark, and the winter seems long, there is light in the ugly places. Actively look for shimmers of hope and the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you see it in the acts of others, sometimes in yourself, sometimes in the eyes of a child playing. Sometimes you can see it in a book you read, in a photograph, in a song. Be a watcher of light. Look out for it. Collect it. Cherish it.
Watch the sun rise
One good thing about winter is that you don’t have to get up super-early to see the sun rise. Check online what time the sun rises where you live, find a hill or a tall building and watch the sun greet the new day. If that doesn’t light you up from within, I don’t know what will… ;)
There’s a reason why it is called a bright smile. Do it, and do it often.
How do you light yourself up from within during the winter months? Share your best tips in the comments!