As the popular song suggests, the holidays are often described as the “most wonderful time of the year,” but this time of year, and through the winter, there is an increase in seasonal depression. Despite nearly every street corner being illuminated with beautiful lights, blissful music playing from every store, and cheesy heartwarming movies on the television, there are plenty of reasons the holiday season isn’t cheerful for everyone. I know this first hand.
The end of the year is often met with deadlines, money concerns, common illnesses, and reminders of the things and people we’ve lost when gathering with our families for festive celebrations. It’s not just a holiday depression, but can lead to months of the blues due to weather and the lack of sun. There are plenty of things one can do to avoid the holiday and winter blues. Set realistic expectations for things you want to accomplish, don’t attempt to take on too much (my biggest problem), and take care of yourself even if it’s a few minutes a day.
One of the most important things, I think, is not comparing your life to the lives of others especially around the holidays. With social media its key to understand people are only sharing the happy (or seemingly happy) moments of their lives. They too go through rough times just not on display. We share the things we want people to see, and keep everything else to ourselves. While looking at people’s families, vacations, or even their gifts, keep in mind that doesn’t make your existence or life inadequate.
There are a few things I like to do for myself in order to beat the winter blues. In addition to what I’ve listed below, you can increase your vitamin D with supplements, eat all the bread you want (it keeps blood sugar levels regular because it breaks down slowly), or just brighten up your space.
- Be active. Going to the gym or on a simple walk can feel like a pain in the ass sometimes. I usually hit the gym at times when there’s no one there (use Google’s peak time indicator for wherever you go to find the best time), because I get to have time to myself without someone using the treadmill right next to me (my biggest pet peeve). If you don’t feel like hitting the gym, go for a walk or even try yoga. Just 35 minutes to an hour can improve the symptoms of depression and increase your confidence levels.
- Eat chocolate. Consuming chocolate releases a temporary euphoria like feeling in the brain leading to a decrease in anxiety and feelings of depression. Whether its hot chocolate or baked in a treat, chocolate is readily available this time of year so there’s no excuse not to have some.
- Listen to happy music. During the holidays classic carols and radio hits can bring along memories of happier times, but for the other months of winter, choose cheerful music that makes you happy. Dancing and smiling (even forced) can bring upon a faux feeling of happiness which eventually the brain begins to believe is true. I’ve even created a playlist for cheering up.
- Help Others. Get outside and volunteer. When you’re feeling like your life isn’t going the way it should or you’re bummed out, give your time to others who are having it a little worse. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal shelter, give your latte money to one of the Salvation Army bell ringers, or deliver an entire bag of non-perishable food items to a local food bank. Just the feeling of knowing you made someone’s life a little better can lead to a better mood.
- Unplug. When viewing everyone’s lives on social media gets to be too much, sign out. Sure, it’s easier said than done (I know this personally) but sometime’s it’s better for your own mental health. Taking a break from the news, photos, Snapchat filters and updates of everyone’s little move will feel great and it will all still be there when you decide to return. Recharge your brain and put it to better use elsewhere.