9 Ways I Beat The Winter Blues – Because SAD Sucks

SAD winter blues
| Mind & Body > Mental Health

When the days darken and SAD descends, Liz finds these activities help her cope with winter blues.

It’s been snowing like nothing else where I live in the U.S. — far more than we’re used to. There was even a point where I was trapped in my house for over a week because I couldn’t get my car out of the driveway. We’ve dubbed it “Snowpocalypse 2017,” and it’s given me a wicked case of the winter blues. All I want is a sliver of sunshine and to be able to get the mail without falling on the ice.

When seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starts getting to me, there are a number of things I do to brighten my mood. If you suffer from SAD as well, consider trying one (or more) of the following to help lift your spirits and triumph over the winter blues.

Gaming

I’m not the best gamer in the world. Despite my normally mild demeanor, video games have the power to turn me into one of those raging tantrum throwers you see on YouTube. I can lose at pretty much everything else in the universe and just shrug my shoulders; but if I lose a life in a video game, there’s hell to pay. That’s why I usually end up sticking to the Sims or Candy Crush. For some reason, even when I’m on the losing side of these games, I’m perfectly content.

What I love about the Sims is the ability to build the world in which the game is played. I’m definitely one of those people who prefer building the houses to actually playing the game as it’s incredibly soothing to spend hours crafting the perfect home, unencumbered by real life problems such as lack of money or skill.

As for Candy Crush (and all of its offshoots), it’s the game I enjoy. I can throw on some TV in the background and relax as my mind works through puzzle after puzzle. Once my brain is occupied, I don’t have time to feel down!

Note: Some games can have an adverse effect on your mood. If you find playing games such as Silent Hill 2 or To The Moon bring you down, those are best avoided until your SAD has passed.

Reading

I love reading. I mean, I really, really love reading. Since I was a small child, curling up and getting lost in a good book has been my favorite way to escape the stresses of real life. My current obsession is A Song of Ice and Fire (the books the television show Game of Thrones is based on.) There’s just something about the world George R.R. Martin crafted that has completely captured my imagination.

However, when I’m feeling bummed out, I usually reach for something I’ve read before; something light that I know will make me smile. My personal favourite for bad days is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s the perfect combination of magical and uplifting — and never fails to make me feel better. The next time you find your SAD getting out of hand, grab your favourite light-hearted book and read the winter blues away.

Netflixing

We’ve all heard of comfort food, yes? Well, I have “comfort shows”. When I’m feeling sad (or particularly anxious), I don’t want to watch anything but American Dad or Archer. Since I’ve seen every single episode enough times to know them by name and be able to quote multiple lines, the familiarity and routine is especially calming. I find that they’re the perfect background to a game of Candy Crush or Sailor Moon Drops, letting me soothe myself on two levels at the same time.

Chances are you have one or two shows that work the same way for you. Take some time to identify them, and then perform an experiment. When you start feeling down, put one of your “comfort shows” on and watch a few episodes. Then, evaluate your mood. Has it improved or remained the same?

Engaging in My Hobbies

I love to create things. Beading, painting, and coloring are usually my go to hobbies, but lately I’ve found myself making tassel garlands and brightening up the house with them. When I’m cutting, folding, and shaping the tissue paper, I’m usually completely focused on the task at hand. However, if my mind starts to wander in a direction I don’t care for, I simply pop on a Netflix documentary and learn while I craft. When I’m done, I’m left with a cheerful little decoration, perfect for reminding me that spring is on its way.

Engaging in your favorite hobbies often works as a form of meditation. It creates a state of “flow”, which psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes as, “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” Creative hobbies are especially proficient at this, so they’re the ones I recommend the most. If you’d like some ideas, Mookychick has a range of interesting hobbies to explore.

Doing My Makeup

Though I frame my love, collection, and use of makeup as a hobby, I gave it its own section in this article for a very simple reason — it’s also a form of self-care. The hour I spend putting on my makeup is the only time of day I devote purely to myself. If I’m in the mood for noise, I listen to podcasts or put on an episode of American Dad. If I’d rather have some quiet time, I focus on the things that make me feel happy, fulfilled, and empowered. I make time for this self-care routine every day because I deserve it — and so do you.

Carve a chunk of time out of your day to do you. Whether it’s your morning shower or a dedicated three hour period of exercise — whatever it is that you love, that makes you feel better about yourself, make a point to do it every day.

Playing With My Dogs

I’m a true dog lady and I’m completely unashamed of it. Well-meaning friends and family have managed to keep my dog hoarding down to two, but I think another eight would really round things out nicely. My dogs are great at identifying when I’m sad or anxious, and will usually curl up next to (or on) me in an attempt to cheer me up. Giving my floofers a good petting or tossing a ball around is always cathartic.

If you have a pet, I definitely recommend smothering them in extra loves when you’re feeling down. Their soothing presence and unconditional love work to alter our emotions and behaviour, making us feel better before we even realise what’s happening.

Doing My Taxes

*record scratch*

Yeah, I know — one of these things is not like the others. Bear with me on this. A lot of the things on this list have one thing in common. They work as a distraction from your SAD. Well, doing your taxes is one hell of a way to distract yourself. For Americans and Canadians, taxes are due in April, which means our tax season starts during the winter.

Most people view doing taxes as a chore, but I think of it as fun — that’s why it’s on this list. I love puzzling out different deductions and potentially getting a big fat refund. I mean, who doesn’t like getting money? For instance, students can get a number of different deductions and credits related to education. American students can claim the “American Opportunity Tax Credit”, while Canadian students can claim tuition, education, and textbooks.

There are tonnes of credits and deductions out there for everything from having kids, to buying a new house, to owning a business — so be sure to do your research before you start!

Note: If money stuff stresses you out, you may want to avoid doing your taxes until your SAD has passed.

Cooking Away the Winter Blues

There are few things in the world I love more than food. I love to cook and I love to eat. I’m particularly fond of baking as I have an insatiable sweet tooth. When I’m feeling blue, I find baking something delicious to be the perfect cure. As with other hobbies, when I’m entrenched in the process of turning a recipe into something edible, I’m completely focused on the task at hand, and all my worries just fall away. The best part? When my work is done, I get to eat something delicious like cookies or cake.

Spending Time With My Friends

Having good friends is important to me — and spending time with them is doubly so. My goofball friends never fail to make me laugh, and their all-round goodness is an amazing thing to behold. Apparently, all this hangout time isn’t just lifting my spirits, it’s also making me healthier. According to Tasha R. Howe, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Humboldt State University, “People with social support have fewer cardiovascular problems and immune problems, and lower levels of cortisol — a stress hormone.”

When you’re feeling down, get in touch with your friends and spend some time in each other’s company if you can. It will be good for the whole lot of you.

It’s important to remember that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, and should not be ignored. You may need light therapy, antidepressants, counselling, or a combination of any or all the three in order to get relief. The tips I’ve listed in this article are all things I do, in addition to taking anti-depressants and seeing a therapist (you can find out more about my own mental health journey here).

Seasonal Affective Disorder Helplines

If you need help, or are feeling depressed or suicidal, please call:

  • Australia: Lifeline — 13 11 14
  • Canada: Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention — Helplines listed here by Province
  • United Kingdom: Hopeline UK — 0800 068 41 41 (United Kingdom)
  • United States: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1.800.273.8255
  • See more mental health crisis helplines for the UK, US and Australia on Mookychick.

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