Beating The Winter Blues

Felted Hearts

Felted Hearts

Yesterday, as I sat with a knitting group watching snow flurries drift past the window, some of us mentioned how we were ready for spring. I live in South Carolina so whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, come February, spring is just around the corner. By the time we get to Valentine’s Day daffodils and other early spring bulbs are beginning to break bud, flocks of robins land in the fields looking for nibbles and the trees give off a red glow as leaf buds swell. But, everything is relative. At the risk of sounding whiney, I still have a bit of the winter blues.

When I lived north of the Mason Dixon Line where winters are truly harsh with piles of snow and winter temps sometimes dipping into negative numbers, February 14th marked my personal turning point toward spring. I looked forward to it every year. My mood lightened as the sun sat higher in the sometimes clear sky, the days grew longer, snow easily melted off the roof and a crocus or two began to poke up through the snow. Many, many years ago a doctor suggested I have a mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If that’s the case, I would venture I’m far from alone.

While winter is often seen as a time of death, it is, in fact, a time for regeneration. As Jean of JeansGarden.Wordpress.com (https://jeansgarden.wordpress.com) recently observed in her post The Beauty of Winter Trees “dormancy should not be confused with death.” As Jean points out, the trees are shutting down to survive the harsh winter environment but it is more of a restorative sleep.  Like the trees, I found that approaching winter as a time to re-energize helped me survive the winter blues with a happier disposition. These are the things I do to stave off the doldrums.

1. As I shoveled snow off the driveway and sidewalks of our Michigan home, I discovered the outside activity actually put me in a happier mood. So, even if you don’t feel like getting outside in the cold, refrain from becoming a winter couch potato. I bundle up and go out for a walk, clean up garden debris and work on clearing underbrush from our overgrown woods.

2. Look at winter as a time to work on inside projects. I spend more time reading, writing, painting and knitting. I declutter and reorganize. I get the taxes done early! I listen to music, watch movies I’ve been wanting to see and play with the cats. I start seeds for the spring garden. This has changed my view of winter. It’s a time to catch up on delayed projects and put your house in order. Then, when spring arrives, you can get outside and play.

3. Cheer up your space. I fill clear vases with things like origami hearts I make or found feathers or sea shells or dried botanicals from my garden. I force bulbs or branches of flowering bushes like forsythia or bring in a bunch of hellebores blooming in the garden.  I make felted hearts of various cheery colors.

4. Stay socially active. I look forward to winter classes at OLLI, meeting friends for lunch or dinner or inviting them to my house and going to group activities like Sit n’ Knit, where we socialize more than anything else. Volunteer or help out a friend in need. Last week I helped a friend with their blog _ it made me feel good to lend a hand.

5. I stopped saying, “I hate winter!” Instead, I look at winter as an opportunity to do all of the above. I also look at it as time to peer inside me and contemplate, meditate and just be.

 
You may have some ways you beat the winter blues. Let me know if you have other suggestions. In the meantime, the sun sits higher in the sky, the days are lengthening, the buds are swelling and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. No matter where you are, no matter what your winter, no matter if you have the blues, the blahs or not, Happy Valentine’s!

16 comments on “Beating The Winter Blues

  1. Kathy,

    You are lucky that spring comes in February where you live! Where I am, in northern Minnesota, we usually don’t have spring at all. Winter ends on May 1, and then all of a sudden, it’s summer. Last year we DID have a spring, because winter suddenly ended in early March. But that was very unusual.

    I like the list of activities that you put in this post. I have done most of them, but a few of them were new, and I look forward to trying them.

    Right now, I’m visiting in Phoenix, so the sky is blue, it’s 80 degrees F, and plants are blooming all over town. It’s wonderful. But when I get home later this week, I will have a rude awakening as I confront a world full of snow and temperatures below freezing. Oh well, I know that spring is coming. Thanks for your post!

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  2. Over here in strangely balmy England, the daffodils are nearly over and I can see lily of the valley poking up their pointy leaves. The seasons are very strange at the moment and I do long for summer. Bundling up in the sleet is not appealing but you are right…you feel better once you’ve done it.
    I thought you might be amused by a recent focus group I observed. The moderator was a 35 year old and she was testing ad concepts with the over 60’s. As she presented the first image, which was a grey haired couple in front of a laptop, a woman in the group exclaimed ‘ what’ s with the grey hair? Have you never heard of Clairol? Why do you think everyone over 60 has to have grey hair?’
    On that note I am fascinated by the fact that all the US leading presidential candidates are campaigning to start one of the most arduous and challenging jobs in the world at an age when technically they should be hanging up their boots!

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    • Diana, Thanks for the insight on the focus group. I did get a kick out of reading it. While most women still color their hair over sixty, there are a growing number who are giving up the bottle in favor of freedom _ as you know I’m one of them! This woman’s comment smacks of ageism, of course, and the grey hair apparently bothers her although I have to say, she does have a point and put it rather comically. Our presidential candidates are quite often what would be otherwise considered over-the-hill. I, too, find that a fascinating fact, especially since the rest of us are generally looked at in our society as washed up and old. Since your spring seems to have come and gone already, I do hope your summer shows up soon! K

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  3. Hi Kathy,
    The only thing you forgot to mention on cold, rainy, dark winter days was the lighting of beautiful smelling candles throughout the home and making huge pots of chicken soup with crusty bread or huge pots of spicy chilly with lots of honey corn bread followed by some wine, baked cookies, baked banana bread or apple crisp with ice- cream!! YUM – makes me wish for lots of cold weather!!

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    • Oh Maria, you are so right! How could I have forgotten the fabulous winter meals especially after I just made some beef Bourguignon the other night? Martin baked a crusty bread and made a blueberry pie and yes, we drank a nice cabernet. YUM! The only thing missing were the scented candles…

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  4. Kathy, I really enjoyed reading your blog this morning. It reminded me of winter days in my homeland of England. Here in Australia we are all grumbling about being too hot, some days 35C. There is something special about winter and the prospect of all those beautiful spring flowers. How I used to love the snowdrops emerging. I liked your photo of the felt hearts. I have just become involved in felting and have made a couple of hats; it can be very rewarding but a bit fiddly. Enjoy all your projects.

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  5. Kathy, Thanks for the shout out! It wasn’t until I moved to the Gettysburg, PA (on the Mason-Dixon line) that Groundhog Day made any sense to me. Growing up in New England, I could never figure out the difference between the condition in which spring would come early and the condition in which winter would last six more weeks (until mid-March, which would mean an early spring!) 😉
    I found winter harder to endure in the mid-Atlantic states where it is often gray and rainy than in Maine where, although winter is much longer, it features a lot of bright sunny days with opportunities for getting out to play in the snow. At either latitude, It is amazing how quickly the days get longer at this time of year.

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  6. I enjoyed this blog immensely and can identify with SAD struggles, especially since I live in Colorado. Keeping busy is a must, I too feel much better outside. I approach this time of year as a good time to catch up on my photo albums and organizing. I also am Bi-Polar 2 , so this time of year is especially hard, depression can set in quickly. I found that buying cheerful plants, like geraniums make me smile and give me something to take care of. I enjoy Kathy’s willingness to share her story to help others .

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  7. You’ve provided excellent suggestions for re-framing winter. In Canada we are having the first cold spell of the season; the thermometer outside the family from window reads -20 Celsius in the sunshine! The temperature was similar yesterday but I layered up and cleared the driveway and walkway. When I came back inside, my fingers were frozen but I felt so much better.
    This year, I’ve been using the winter months to prepare our city house for sale. We plan to move to a condo bungalow. The move will be another step in adapting to the aging process. We want to maintain independent living in our own home for as long as possible!
    Thanks for the great writing on your blog. I find nuggets of great advice in every post.

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  8. Love your blog. I am in Southern California and we would love to have a real winter. The last week it has been 85 degrees during the day. We are in a severe drought and had hoped that a strong El Ninjo was going to bring us some relief. We are still hopeful. I know sunny days are wonderful, but in February too much of a good thing is just too much.

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  9. A friend reminds me that snow means slow; I’ve come to look at it as a restorative time. Like you, a time to read, watch movies, visit, play games, etc. The difference between a good and bad winter day is often the right clothes. It’s easier to warm up than it is to cool off. I suffer from a mild case of SAD; I’ve learned to turn the lights on in the house, every light in the room. And exercise helps. Is there anything more delightful than the sun sparkling off the frost or snow?

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  10. I hate winter as well and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we get some intense winters. My husband and I run away from home once a month during the winter just to save our sanity. We don’t go far, just far enough to get away from telephones, tvs, computers and winter commitments. After 3 days away, we’re ready to face another month of this icky season.

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  11. Great suggestions Kathy and something for we Australians to keep in mind for the months ahead. We might not get snow but we do get the shorter days. We are fortunate to have a slow combustion heater and double glazing so we enjoy that immensely in winter.
    It is as you say a great time to get out for a walk; no sunburn to worry about and one doesn’t arrive home a soggy mess from perspiration. I think we need the outdoors even more in winter and it does indeed help to avoid SAD

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  12. I like to photograph winter scenes– the lake, the park, birds . I also like to vary my winter outfits with different inexpensive hats, scarves, and jewelry. At the end of the season, I donate these to local clothing charities.

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