Beating Back The Winter Blues

Enjoying winter beauty on my walk to retrieve the mail.

Another snowy day.  Watching a Blue Jay on an oak branch outside my window, I feel a sense of peace. That feeling is not the norm for me this time of year.  Following the holidays I’m usually overcome by the winter blues.  It doesn’t matter where I lived, north, south, east or west, a certain melancholy always set in.  But, not this year.  This year I decided to embrace the season.  

Instead of pining for spring I would make a conscious effort to enjoy the snow, the cloud cover and even the cold.  I would be mindful of winter’s beauty.  Instead of seeing a stark landscape I would pay close attention to the birds flitting from tree to bare tree.  I would eye the snow covered branches and listen for the sound of the wind.  I would smell the clean cold air on my walk to the mailbox and filling the bird feeders and shoveling the walkways.  I would arise every morning with gratitude for waking up in a warm bed, having a roof over my head, food to eat, cats greeting me at the door and all of us herding to the kitchen for breakfast.  I would drink coffee and write about the smallest of things in my gratitude journal.  

It is working.  By starting each day with an attitude of gratitude, I find my spirit lifted.  In the past I wrote in my journal in the late evening.  The small change of writing in the morning or sometimes the afternoon turned my mind in an unexpected way.  I also occasionally write in real time right after something as simple as watching a Blue Jay on an oak branch occurs.  By doing so it keeps the feeling of gratitude alive throughout the day.  In addition to a reflection upon the immediate past, my journaling becomes part of the present, creating a more mindful approach to life.

Embracing the season seems easier with retirement.  I never thought I would enjoy living in the north again.  Yet, here I am.  Since I don’t have to go out on the roads during stormy weather, the luxury of settling in for the day with a fire going, instrumental jazz playing, a pot on the stove filled with water and scented oils like orange or cinnamon and later a hot cocoa or tea conspires to fend off the blues.

After shoveling snow I’m ready for a hot cocoa! (note:faux fur)

Self-care is my main agenda this year.  This past month of indulging myself in simple pleasures not only brought that goal into focus, it renewed my sense of purpose.  I started by preparing my house for sale in the spring and I started that by decluttering.  I thought I’d done a bang up job of decluttering when I left South Carolina.  Now, I look at what I dragged to Michigan and wonder why I brought so much stuff.  And the old paperwork!  I went paperless years ago.  Yet, I still found a couple of boxes of old records.  I proceeded with a shred-a-thon.  Having a clear space allows for clear headedness, at least I think so.  

Living in a basically neutral space also brings a certain serenity.  I like using furniture and art to bring in color.  Being homebound with the pandemic raging while also caregiving, I spent many days stripping wallpaper covered with oversized roses, plaids and wild game and painting over walls of bright pinks, greens and browns to create a more relaxing space.  For someone looking for a calming peaceful space neutrals did the trick. Add that to how buyers prefer a clean palette that’s move-in ready and it’s a win-win.

My mornings after coffee, breakfast, cats on my lap, writing in my journal and catching up with friends, I head for the shower.  There I sprinkle an essential oil before starting the water flow.  Lavender or camomile if I want calm, peppermint if I want invigoration.  My favorite is grapefruit, the light citrus smell creating a spirit lifting mood.  I also treat myself to hand milled soaps with similar scents of lavender, peppermint or lemon honey.  Finally, I make my own sugar scrub with a half cup of sugar, enough almond oil to moisten and a dash of essential oil.  That’s my spa-like routine adding to my self-care.

As I finish this it’s the day after the snowfall.  The sun is shining from a blue sky dotted with ghosted clouds.  The glistening snow reflecting warmth into my writing space.  I shoveled sidewalks yesterday and recovered my garbage curb cart from under a drift left by the snow plows.  I’m off now to feed the birds and enjoy the beauty of the season.  

I’d like to hear what you do to beat back the winter blues or perhaps you aren’t effected by them.  Let me know.  Enjoy you day!

27 comments on “Beating Back The Winter Blues

  1. I too usually find February a depressive month but like you….after a major illness and then omicron…I feel much more at peace this February. I’m still here a great joy to celebrate

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    • Dara, Absolutely it’s definitely a joy to celebrate being alive. I’m sorry to hear about your major illness and hope the Omicron wasn’t too trying. I had Covid early on, only a mild case, but still it’s not something I ever want again. So glad to hear you came through.

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  2. I have recurrent depression so I have to use tricks to hold off downturns (usually in November) and irritability in March. Singing uplifting and funny songs in the shower daily helps a lot to set a positive tone, as does gratitude practice. I also stay aware of accomplishments, no matter how small, and make sure I can point to something each day. Also letting go of things that don’t happen as planned, such as missing my language lesson to go get my wool from the processing mill, keeps me on a more even keel when I have a break in routine. Learning new things and making things keeps me occupied most of the time but I have people-related activities periodically to keep from becoming a hermit.

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  3. Kathy, I find this advise helpful in so many ways. In going through a bit of a dark time, the reminder that I control my response to this moment is one that I need to hold onto. Thank you also for the reminder to find the joy again. With gratitude and my compassion.

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  4. Practicing mindfulness isn’t easy for me, but gradually I feel the rewards in a calming sense. Your writing ability is a pleasure to read, and this post was like taking a deep calming breath…thank you.

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  5. Being a midwestern girl, I find beauty in each season. My favorite is Fall. For winter ( and we got quite a bit!) I love to read or do puzzles. My best thing is to bundle up and walk in the forest preserve- such beauty!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  6. I started experiencing the “winter blues” 6 years ago when we moved from sunny CO to the cloudy/rainy Pacific Northwest. I had just retired, and when the first winter hit, I experienced the first of many of those blues.

    I have been fighting these blues, running from these blues, throwing “SAD” lights at these blues. There seems to be no diversion that works. I even considered going back to work full time. Back to those fluorescent lights!

    I believe that I have found something that is working for me now. I think that 2 years of Covid may have been helpful with this.

    Mindful breathing. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth. I’m a spreadsheeting, problem-solving, non-emotional type. The phrase “mindful breathing” would never catch my interest.

    But now it has. Simple. When I’m feeling down, or anxious or fearful, I stop. I stop and become aware of my breath. I become aware that it is me who is standing here breathing. I stop running. That’s really it. That is all I need to do. It’s OK to slow down.

    When I am in slow-down mode, I am able to see beauty, even to enjoy those gray skies and that rain. Slow-down mode is helping me to enjoy my own company. To dabble in sketching. To listen to music. To enjoy my winter garden. To pay attention to what is happening now. In the present.

    Acceptance.

    Kathy, I’m so happy to be reading your wonderful writing again. Thank you. Take care of you.

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  7. Kathy,

    Thank you for this message. I can’t tell you how much this means to me today. We are awaiting the results of a bone marrow biopsy on my husband of fifty years, with bad news anticipated.

    Someone suggested this morning that I put a gratitude journal by my bed and write something in it each morning. As my heart and mind are racing so continually, I couldn’t imagine how to even begin. You provided me with the instructions, and I am grateful for you sharing your beautiful writing. Thank you.

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    • Sandi, having been where you are at the moment my heart goes out to you and your husband. If the biopsy is the bad news you anticipate, you will become a caregiver for your husband. Not only will the journaling help, so will mindfulness and meditation. I’ve never been one to meditate for more than 10 minutes, but even that much helps with calming my breathing and staying centered. Mindfulness helps us live in the moment. I’m thinking of you and your husband and praying for the best. Remember, you are stronger than you know. Hugs, K.

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  8. Thnx for your thoughts. I also sometimes have the blues each January. An attitude of gratitude helps when a pity party approaches.
    Plus. If I make it to Feb…I know I have a birthday coming in March. So there is that!😁

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  9. Hi Kathy…have been following you for years…I retired from teaching 10 years ago and decided this year that I could help out by substitute teaching at my daughter’s school…I am loving being useful and the kids are a real upper…my mid winter blues may be a thing of the past! Nancy

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  10. I have struggled with January for years, it has always been the longest, coldest, dreariest month for me. But several years ago a friend mentioned that she thinks of January as the month to go through all her closets and drawers to get rid of unnecessary things. I tried that and it really turned the month around for me. Although I have to admit, I smiled when Feb 1st got here this year.

    Thank you Kathy for everything you share with us. I appreciated your comments on self care. I have been repeating these words to myself lately as I have tried to convince myself to do the stretching exercises that I need to get control of the pain and tightness in my neck. So far this week I did my exercises four times so I am proud of myself!

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  11. Being retired I chose to fully enjoy the winter weather here in Texas. I try to find the positives and the beauty of each day. Winter is a time to slow down and be more observant of my surroundings. I truly believe that winter is my favorite season.

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  12. Kathy, I’ve never dabbled in essential oils, but your comments on how you use them make me thinK I might like to try them. This year, our first in Florida, I’m not sure I am feeling any winter doldrums! There are so many warm sunny days here where I can get outside. Even today’s gloomy mist coolness, I’m looking forward to wrapping up in a quilt and reading this afternoon. (And It’s lovely to hear your voice again here in the blogosphere).

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  13. Hi Kathy,You article is beautifully written.When I was working I had the sunday night blues,and since I worked for a school district I also had after breaks blues, and after summer vacation blues.Ha Ha! I was very happy to get rid of all of them! In reading your article I see myself in you. I love to watch the birds at the feeders while having my coffee.There is a little frozen lake that I go sit by in all seasons.It is a great gift to live long enough to be able to retire. I love all the seasons. I also do crafts and play games with my grandkids.One of the things that fulfill me the most is praying for others.God Bless you!

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  14. An excellent reflective piece at a time in your life which has not been the best, and at a time when life has not been the best for many. We often miss or ignore the smallest positive signs around us and nature has an abundance of those positive signs.

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  15. I live in California and I am having winter blues too. My blues are coming from the fact that our fire season is all year now and the last wave of covid shut things down again.
    My partner who I don’t live with is on dialysis and going down slowly. He is still trying so hard to be normal but down he goes. He is my hero even though it is hard to watch us all age in our 70ties.
    I admire you Kathy how you have moved and bought your own house. I have lived in my house for 42 years and am full of fear when I think of moving. Thanks for listening….

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    • Carol, my heart goes out to you. It’s difficult to watch someone decline. Please be sure to give yourself care and space to grieve. I’m happy to listen anytime. You may also want to seek a grief counselor to help you through this time. Hugs, K

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  16. Kathy, I’ve never been much prone to depression, but I have found that, for me, maintaining a sense of joy and wonder in my life depends on allowing some time each day to just be and open all my senses to the natural world — that particular soft blue of a February sky on a sunny day with snow on the ground, noticing the way the breeze is ruffling the branches of the eastern hemlock trees outside my study, and the play of shadows on the tree trunks. Today, we are having a “February thaw” with temperatures that got up to 50F; it’s too icy to walk anywhere, but I went outside just to stand and feel the sun on my face — and then looked down to see the first shoots of crocus sticking up out of the melting snow by the foundation.

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    • Jean, It sounds like mindfulness is the key for you as I found it to be for me. Staying present in the moment is, to me, another form of meditation. I’m so happy to hear you have crocuses peeking out. I’m looking for the hellebores in my yard. Happy gardening. K

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      • Reading about the snow and being single again has made me appreciate the fact that my dear partner can still drive me around and takes me to dinner for valentine’s day. I need to appreciate the fact that we can still do things together even if it isn’t like before the dialysis.

        We as older women go thru many stages and I love the fact that you are buying houses on your own. I am still in the house I have lived in since 1980. Not stuff but wondering if I will ever move and have another adventure. Just have not seen anything better. Glad you are back Kathy Maybe I will not need therapy if I just keep writing and talking about my and our journeys. Been in therapy after a divorce and learned that talking and writing about the journey is continuous.

        On Sun, Feb 13, 2022 at 7:51 AM Kathy’s Retirement Blog wrote:

        > Kathy Merlino commented: “Jean, It sounds like mindfulness is the key for > you as I found it to be for me. Staying present in the moment is, to me, > another form of meditation. I’m so happy to hear you have crocuses peeking > out. I’m looking for the hellebores in my yard. Happy g” >

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      • Carol, We are never too old for a new adventure. About 10 years ago I belonged to a group where a 79 year old woman decided to build a new house. The one she was in was too large for her, but she wasn’t ready for assisted living. She took a leap and to my knowledge, never regretted it. The time may come when you decide to make the leap to have an adventure. Hugs, K

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  17. Living down South, snow is sort of like a special occasion, like Halley’s Comet . We mostly have some cold weather, then it gets warm, torrential rain, and repeat. I would say I’m looking forward to Spring except that is tornado season down here.

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  18. I’m in Minnesota and just seeing your post. I think I should follow you, finding some common ground being retired. We have many grand-kids and I’m married to a wonderful Christian man. Still, I get very down about other things beyond my control so it is nice to read similar stories. Just to find friends helps with the down times. Most of the time I am positive and very grateful for my many blessings. This cold winter is getting to me though this year. Reading has become a favorite pastime to keep the blues away, especially the Bible.

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