10 Ways To Forget Winter Blues forever
How I conquered a lifetime of winter blues with the help of a good friend, a toddler and some trees
Complaining that a particular month of the year can effect your mood seems a bit defeatist, I know, I know, you’re the same person in July as you are in February, but when the rain hasn’t stopped pounding for 7 days straight, the sky seems to be closing in on you in an all-consuming grey fog, all your radiators are covered in sodden clothes and a smell of damp is prevailing through the flat it’s hard not to feel a little (or a lot ) grumpy.
Yesterday morning I found myself slowly sliding into that familiar February depression. Despite the fact that I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, found February a very challenging month, to top it off another fun yoga retreat had ended, another group of energetically positive yogis had left, Ru is working away for a month in Madrid and the rain is relentless. It was comedown central and I got that yucky feeling with a vengeance.
There I was sat in my Spanish class unable to concentrate on grammar, contemplating all the negative aspects of February when my Buddhist teacher’s words, lectures and messages came banging on my stuck-in-a-rut door. They said, “Hang on a minute Kat, how can you keep a health and happiness blog, practise Buddhism, and teach yoga and meditation if you can’t snap yourself out of this ‘February is disgusting’ cycle”. Hmmm, good point Ajahn Brahm.
You see I’d never even thought to challenge my winter blues preconceptions before, ones that had span over at least 10 years, I’d just become to accept and expect that unless I was 'lucky' enough to be on some picture-perfect beach in the middle of Asia that I couldn’t feel anything other than crappy in February. How very silly of me; every moment of everyday presents us with an opportunity to evolve. No two minutes, hours, days, months or years are the same. What we feel today will be different tomorrow, such is the beauty of life.
After class, I packed away my books and went home to find one of my closest friends waiting for me (she had purposely stayed on an extra day after retreat so that we could spend some quality time together), we began talking about life, work, relationships, family as we walked through the park surrounded by nature. Afterwards we picked Bella from nursery who excitedly exclaimed, 'mummy, mummy, esta lloviendo!’ (it’s raining), in her Spanglish language, which to her is simply an exciting opportunity to wear wellies, jump in puddles and carry her Mikey Mouse umbrella. And then, all of a sudden I felt better.
How could I have been so weak and self-indulgent to have already decided that I was peed off because it was February again? Friends can warm our hearts, being surrounded by nature can help create space from the mental chitter chatter of our mind and children can teach us how to live life. Children live completely in the present moment, they aren’t thinking about yesterday and they certainly aren’t worrying about tomorrow, they take each day and find the fun in it. What a beautiful quality.
As adults we can’t stop our monkey minds running around the crazy jungle of life: planning, fantasising, worrying, imagining, but we can try and rein it in so we too can enjoy the present moment (even if that moment is a wet, cold and grey February day).
Here are a few tips to turn your winter blues golden:
1. Intention. We are the same person in July as in February, we just need to flip the script and instead of becoming gloomy about the darker days we can utilise the unbreakable power of the mind to set positive and joyful intentions, even if you’ve experience unpleasant winters before, now is not then and by radiating some positive energy you can transform your day. I like to say this mantra on a cold morning, “today is a new day, a new beginning and an opportunity to feel happy”. Need some help building postive energy in a morning, try this 10 minute free yoga video.
2. Visualisation. By practising a visual meditation you can soon transport yourself to the sandy shores of paradise. Sit comfortably either crossed-legged or in a chair with a straight spine, feet on the floor, hands on your knees and close your eyes. Find your breath, inhaling and exhaling and begin to count down each breath from 50. Within a matter of moments your whole being will relax and you will become open to visualisation. Imagine yourself laying on a beach with the warm sun shining down on your face and feel all your worries and problems drift away, you feel relaxed, happy and excited about the future. Stay here for as long as feels good, playing some soft meditation music and burning sandalwood incense will help to create the perfect atmosphere. You could tree this free 10 minute morning guided meditation.
3. Exercise. Children don’t stop exercising throughout the day, jumping on beds, running around the house, rolling around floors, yoga squatting in front of the the television, they are full of energy. Exercise is a great way to get your endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing, which is one of the best cures for winter blues. Commit to 30 minutes of exercises a day, that could include putting on a yoga or Insanity dvd or Youtube video and turning your living room into a mini studio or taking the dog for a walk, visiting you local swimming pool, gym, sledging, skiing.
4. Play dress up. Arriving to work with wet socks, lank hair, panda eyes and frost bite is pretty dismal and is sure to set your day off to a bad start but if, like Bella, you are excited to put on and up your prized umbrella, wellies, chunky socks, thermal parkas, gloves, hats, scarves and jumper then you’ll fend off Jack Frost with a smile on your face.
5. Plan ahead. Getting out of bed in a morning when it’s freezing is too hard and as for taking a cold shower, well, that’s just impossible. By setting your central heating to come on 30 minutes before you rise will mean that you are greeted by a comforting blanket of warmth every morning. You could even put your underwear on the radiator for a true childlike winter treat.
6. Home is where the heart is and even more so during these long winter months. Keep your house nice and tidy, create a cosy atmosphere so that staying at home feels like a luxury. Maybe purchase a new scatter cushion, candle or blanket and fill you home with good vibes. Check out Vogue.co.uk’s pick of the best candles here.
7. Soup. When it’s cold outside you need something to really warm the cockles. Homemade soups can be a seriously healthy way to stay toasty, control calories and ensure that you get your daily nutrients. Try making big batches of vegetable based soups freezing them and transporting them to work in flasks. You’ll probably save some money too. I love these healthy soup recipes from Deliciously Ella.
8. Sunrise alarm clock. Waking-up every morning to the abrupt sound of a noisy phone or alarm clock can leave you feeling irritable. Investing in an alarm clock, such as the Lumie Bodyclock starter 30, which imitates a sunrise effect beside your bed has been shown to boost mood, productivity and energy levels for the rest of the day. From the first faint glimmer of dawn, the alarm clock light gradually increases in brightness until you gently wake up the way nature intended. The brightening light is a natural cue for your body to reduce the production of sleep hormones (e.g. melatonin) and gradually increase the levels of those that help you get up and go (e.g. cortisol).
9. Friends. Good friends, friends that support you, respond positively to your plans, life and goals and listen when you need a moan will always leave you feeling much brighter, stronger and complete. Make time to invest in your friendships, they might just make you really happy.
10. Baths. I’m not sure if it’s more of a northern thing (many of my non-Yorkshire friends weirdly prefer showers) but I love baths. Big hot baths with lots of bubbles and oils and what better way to unwind after a long day in the rain.