9 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

Positively Present - Winter Blues

 

As winter arrives, I'm taken back in my mind to last year... Last winter, I was really down and out at the start of 2019. I spent so much time in bed, engaging in unhealthy coping methods, and generally just feeling rotten about myself and my life. While I don't know for sure if this was general depression or Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) -- I should have sought professional help, but I didn't -- I do know that it was pretty terrible to feel that way. 

Though I feel very differently now than I did then (not gonna lie -- 2019 turned itself around and turned out to be one of the best years I've had in a long time!), when I think back on last winter, my mind starts racing and all I can think about is how to prevent myself from falling back into that darkness again this year. So, of course, I decided to do some research on S.A.D. and learn about how I could prevent it, or, if it happens to strike again this year, how I can cope with it. 

Even if you don't have S.A.D. or depression, you might find yourself facing the winter blues. With colder temps and darker, shorter days, it's not surprising that many people struggle during this season. You can't always avoid feeling sad (or S.A.D.) altogether, but here are some of the tips I've discovered that I think would really help if you're struggling. 

 

  1. GET A LIGHT BOX

    I've never tried one of these so I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but from what I've read, it sounds like they can really help people who are suffering with S.A.D. Apparently there are many different types (as well as something called a "dawn simulator" that's used to wake you up in the morning) so be sure to do your research and figure out which one would be best for you. 

  2. VENTURE OUTDOORS

    The lack of light and shorter days can make it tough to go outside (especially if, like me, you're not an outdoorsy type to begin with), but if you're feeling down, making the effort to spend time in the fresh air can really help. Even just a quick walk around the block can help! (Or get a pup so you're forced to take them out and get some outdoor time in every day!)

  3. TRY THERAPY (CBT)

    While I can't personally verify that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for S.A.D., I do know that it's worked for me in the past to deal with other mental health issues and it's the therapy type I saw recommended the most while looking up info on S.A.D. Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to find solutions for your specific needs, so I highly recommend it. 

  4. MAKE SOME ART

    Art therapy really does work, and I honestly don't know if I would have survived last winter without making art. I know art isn't everyone's thing, but if you're feeling down, give it a try. It doesn't have to be traditional art either -- try writing, pottery, drawing, painting, sewing. Anything creative that allows you to get in a flow for a bit can help. 

  5. CONSIDER MEDS

    To get through S.A.D. some people need the assistance of medication. If you're having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about what you're going through to see if there might be something that can work for you. (Whatever you do, don't attempt to self-medicate. It never works out and often makes things way worse than they were.)

  6. PRACTICE YOGA

    Yoga is another saving grace for me. I'm not particularly good at it and I generally do it for about 10-15 minutes every day, but even when I half-ass it and don't feel up for it, making the time to do it always makes me feel a bit better. (My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube but there are tons of yogis online!) Exercising also works wonders if yoga isn't your thing. 

  7. SEEK SUNLIGHT

    Open the blinds! Pull up the curtains! The lack of sunlight is one of the reasons for S.A.D. so the more of it you can allow into your home, the better. If you don't have a desk near a window, as your boss if there's somewhere else you can work temporarily to be near a sunny spot. Going outside isn't always an option, but take advantage of sunny days indoors by allowing the light in. 

  8. MAKE PLANS 

    When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to do is be around people. But I've discovered that it's often what my mind needs when I'm sad. I don't enjoy going out in the cold, but I'm planning to make an effort to make lots of plans this winter so that I'm busy and socializing. It won't be easy, but I know it's helpful for me. 

  9. STICK TO A SCHEDULE

    With the lack of daylight, it's tempting to go to bed super early or sleep in (if you have the option), but I've read (and also believe) that sticking to a schedule is important for managing or preventing S.A.D. The body and mind love to be on schedules and it gives your life a sense of purpose that's important when you're feeling down. Your winter schedule can be different from your summer one, but just try to stick to it! 

 

Of course, there are many other options to explore and if you're really suffering during the winter, seeking professional help (whether in the form of therapy or from your doctor) is always a good idea. If you're feeling down (especially after the holiday season passes and it feels like a swift change in pace), know that you're not alone and that it's perfectly normal to experience down days in the winter. Try to remember that, even when it doesn't seem like it, the difficult darkness will pass. There will be a spring again (or something that makes it feel like spring to you). 

 

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6 Ways to Shake Things Up


Positively Present - Shake It Up

 

For months and months, it felt like a dark cloud was hanging over my head. I don't know if it was seasonal depression or regular depression or just part of my biological mental ups and downs, but, man, was it rough. I didn't feel like doing anything, and I didn't feel like I'd ever get out of that dark fog of what felt like nothingness.

But, over the past few weeks, there's been a shift. I've felt something start to change, the clouds start to part a bit, if you will. I don't know if the darkness is gone (I mean, is it ever?), but I do feel a lot better than I was feeling. In fact, the other day, I was driving and it just hit me: Wow, I don't feel terrifically sad right now, and that sad feeling feels a lot like a memory I can't quite recall. This is often how it is with me -- when things are good, it's hard to remember them ever being bad; when they're bad, I can't imagine it'll ever be good again. 

I was stopped at a red light, thinking about how different things seemed now than even a few weeks ago, I was so thankful that the darkness (whatever it was!) seemed to be passing. I've been, little by little, starting to feel like myself again, so I thought, why not shake things up a bit? I know, this might, to some, seem precisely the wrong time to shake anything up, but, after months of nothingness, of feeling perpetually blah, shaking things up feels like the exact right thing to do! 

I've been trying a few of these shake-things-up ideas, and I thought I'd share them with you in case, like me, you're at a point in your life when you need to switch things up a bit (but not in a change-career-paths, sell-all-your-stuff-and-move-to-the-beach kind of way!). 

 

GO SOMEWHERE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN

Even if it's just somewhere in your town, go to a new place! This is a pretty easy way to shake things up (but not too much!). Obviously, going on a grand vacation to new country or something would work too, but, if you're like me, and you don't like too much shake up, just checking out a new spot (a restaurant, shop, museum, park, etc.) can enliven your day just a little bit! 

 

SWITCH UP YOUR EVERYDAY ROUTINE

I tend to bring this tip up a lot here on Positively Present because I personally love my routines. They're just so comforting and, because they are so familiar, I don't have to think much about them, which frees my mind to think more about creating! But switching them up (even just a bit!) can add a nice little spice-of-life to the day. 

 

LOCK YOUR PHONE UP FOR 24 HOURS

This one I haven't yet tried, but it seems like quite a good way for heavy phone users (like me!) to shake things up. If I didn't look at my phone for 24 hours, my whole life would be so different. (To be honest, I don't even know if I could manage this, but it sure would be worth a try, if just to shake me out of my phone-clutching habits!)

 

GET RID OF WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Most of us have a lot of stuff we don't really need, and I don't know about you, but I always feel so refreshed and satisfied when I go through my things and donate them to people who might actually use them. This might seem like a "shake it up" activity, but I really do feel exhilarated when I do it (organizing nerd alert!) so I count it as a way to shake things up. 

 

HAVE A SOLO SING + DANCE PARTY

Personally, I try to do this daily. It doesn't always happen, but every time I take time to sing and dance, I feel better. There's also all different kinds of music and vibes for a solo dance party so you can switch it up just by changing the tunes. It sounds silly, but singing and dancing really has an amazingly positive impact on my mental state!

 

SIT WITH ANY MOMENTS OF BOREDOM

Another one I've yet to try, but am very intrigued by: sitting with boredom. I generally don't get bored (and why should I, with all the tech and books and music and art at my disposal?!), but boredom can be useful and if it's not something you experience often, embracing it could be a interesting way to shake things up. Just sit with it and see what happens!

 

So there you have it! Six fairly easy ways to shake things up in your day-to-day life. If you're going through a dark period, give these a try (even though I know it's really, really hard to do) because they might just help. If you're in a sunny time in your life, also consider shaking things up. There's no easier time to do it than when you're feeling that sunshine-y mindset. Regardless of whether you try these ideas or not, I hope they've inspired you to think a bit about how you might want to shake things up in your life. You don't have to embark on some dramatic journey or aim to transform you life in order to shake things up a bit! 

 

 

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Wanting v. Having : 5 Ways to Embrace Desire


Positively Present - Wanting Having
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Materialism exists because we get excited about something, want to own it, get it, grow used to it (or even feel let down by it immediately after acquiring it), and then strive again for the "wanting" high by identifying a new thing to covet. The cycle can be endless, and even if you're aware of it, it can be tough to break because wanting something (and striving to make it yours) just feels so darn good sometimes. 

The problem is we often don't pay attention to where in that cycle of want-get-have-want that we actually feel good. Yes, getting a thing you've longed for can feel good to obtain momentarily, but frequently it doesn't feel as good as the actual desiring of it did. And we often (if not always!) return to our previous mental state after we've gotten used to possessing whatever it is we once wanted (see: hedonic treadmill).

Often this happens because the way we think about something we want is different from how we feel about it when we own it. Just think about the last time you got a new phone. The anticipation of it, with it's fresh screen and new features, was thrilling. And the first few days with it might have been exciting, too. But now, even if you use and enjoy it a lot, it's likely just something you own. 

The notion that more stuff won't bring you more happiness isn't anything new (and the rise in the minimalism trend keeps bringing it to the forefront in popular culture). Most of us know this (and some of us even put that idea into to practice by resisting the temptation to buy more and more things in pursuit of that short-lived high!), but we often don't focus on how this wanting vs. having idea applies to non-tangible things we're in pursuit of, things like love, status, wealth, success, etc. 

If you're in pursuit of anything at all, whether it be personal or professional, tangible or intangible, you, too, must face the fact that sometimes (and, in fact, often), the wanting of something is more enjoyable than the possession of it. Even if we experience this again and again — we find a great love, we get the job we desperately wanted, we achieve the goal we've worked on for years and yet still feel the need to desire something new or better or more important — it's hard not to keep pursuing more and more. 

The problem is, if we're always chasing after the next thing, we're rarely (if ever) content with where we are now, which makes it pretty difficult to live positively in the present. But how are we to counteract the desire for desire when it's built into our societies, when we're expected to constantly be seeking? Here are few ways we can embrace the ever-present desire to want what we don't yet have.

 

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCE, NOT POSSESSION

You've certainly heard this before: buy experiences, not things. But this concept need not apply only to material goods. It also applies to the intangible desires so many of us have. Experiencing something, whatever it might be, is often much more valuable than possessing it is. For example, rather than focusing the possession of a person (labeling a new romance, needing reassurance that a partner is "yours," or feeling an ownership over your offspring), what if we focused more on the experiences we have with that individual? Doing so will actually strengthen our bonds or, in some cases, help us to realize that perhaps that isn't a person with whom we want to be closely bonded. Or, let's consider the pursuit of greater career opportunity. What if we focused on the experience of working toward it and valued that more than the actual achievement of a new title? Or, once a new title has been granted, what if we spent more time valuing the experience of a new, higher position rather than considering how we might use it to pursue even more status or wealth? Choosing to focus on experiences rather than possessions (tangible or otherwise) is likely to lead to more contentment. 

 

LET GO OF WHAT YOU DON'T GET

It can be hard to realize sometimes when you're in a state of wanting, but the thing you want comes with baggage you cannot understand until you possess it. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "If a man could have half his wishes, he would double his troubles." (Or, in the words of The Notorious B.I.G., "mo money, mo problems.") Whatever it is you want is going to come with a set of issues that you can't anticipate now. You don't know what you don't know, and sometimes you're often better off not acquiring the things you think you want. I know the "everything happens for a reason" idea is cliche, but I believe in it. You can't foresee what will happen in the future, and I've found that not getting what I want has been a blessing in many cases (and getting what I want has rarely lived up to its hype). If you don't get it, it means it's not meant for you. (Or it's not meant for you right now. Things meant for you have a way of coming when you need them, not necessarily when you want them.)

 

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU DO HAVE

If you're familiar with Positively Present, it's going to be no surprise to see gratitude  — probably one of the most used bits of advice here — in this round-up of tips, but making an effort to recognize and appreciate what you do have (particularly what you once longed for and then obtained) is one of the best ways to counteract the challenging notion of always wanting something else. Things only bring us joy when we're aware of them, which is why we take so much pleasure from wanting. When we want something, we're hyper-focused on it, sometimes consumed by thoughts what life will be like if we have it. Once we've had it for awhile, we don't often spend as much time thinking about it. When you find yourself thinking, "I want..." consider challenging it with the thought, "I have..." 

 

SEEK OUT THE ROOT OF THE WANTING

How much of what you want is what you actually want and how much is someone else's idea of what you should want? It's hard to know for sure — after all, we're all products of the cultures and environments in which we are raised and it can be hard to separate our true desires from what we've been taught — but the more you pay attention to the real reasons for what you want, the more you dig down into the roots of that desire, the more likely you are to realize that what you want is actually based on what you think you're supposed to want. Looking at why you desire what you do (and, just as importantly, what you think will happen if you obtain that thing) will often help you realize that your wants are often rooted in foundations not put in place by you. 

 

VALUE CONTENTMENT OVER HAPPINESS

"The pursuit of happiness" is part of the US Declaration of Independence and, as result, many people here and around the world have come to associate the pursuit of happiness with living life to the fullest. Happiness has been held up as the ultimate goal, something all people should be striving for in whatever way feels right for them. We've come to understand that, while happiness doesn't look the same for everyone, everyone wants to be happy. But, as I've discussed many times before, happiness is a fleeting emotion. It's wonderful, but it doesn't last. Making it your life's goal is setting yourself up for constant disappointment (which often leads to pursuit of the next thing that you think will make you happy). The pursuit of happiness is great for capitalism, but not so great for contentment. Instead of focusing being happy, try striving for contentment. Aim to make the most of what's happening now, to accept what's been and look forward to what will be without setting expectations. 

 

When you're in a state of wanting, it can be difficult to realize this, but it's true: whatever you think you need to be happy — money, fame, love, acceptance, beauty, attention, success, diamonds, children, a house, etc. — won't actually make you happier than you are now, at least not for very long. Realizing this doesn't mean you shouldn't keep pursuing what you want (for what is life if not pursuit?); it only means that you should stop expecting that the having will be greater than the wanting. It means understanding that, even though it seems strange, wanting something can be fulfilling in itself, and not getting what you want doesn't have to mean failure. And, most importantly, it means that, cheesy as it may sound, you'll be able to realize that it is, in fact, a journey towards something has just as much value (if not more!) than the thing itself. 

 

 

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