How To Bust Through The Winter Blues

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You’ve probably noticed lately that I haven’t written much. You’re not wrong. I’ve noticed it too. This winter has been a weird one. Lots of rain. Temperatures fluctuating quite a bit. No snow. Sickness moving from person to person to dog to person, consistently in our homestead.

I haven’t had any energy to get outside on the weekends per my usual. I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps that we haven’t had enough snow to go snowshoeing or sledding. When the temps this winter have climbed into the 40s and even 50s, I haven’t been able to peel myself off the couch to enjoy a warm weather winter hike. I have even found myself sitting at my new writing desk, pen in hand, staring blankly at the empty page in front of me with barely a glimmer of a thought to transfer any ink to the page.

With it getting dark at 5 pm, the lack of sunlight is hitting me like a ton of bricks this year, for some reason. This must be a bad case of the winter blues…a sickness that plagues many. Yet, this is the first time this illness has made its way to my body, and I don’t like it one bit. It’s weird for me, as the winter blues can seem like a mild depression. However, I don’t really feel depressed. I just feel unmotivated. Unmotivated to do much else besides sit and watch the boob tube and go to bed early.

This lack of motivation is starting to bother me quite a bit. The weather this year isn’t really helping much either. Last year, we had a decent winter with snow that stuck around for a bit for us to enjoy and play in, but it did end a bit early. This year, it took some time for winter to arrive or at least snow. However, so far, after a decent snowfall, it’s been warming up pretty quickly, turning to rain, and melting into a nasty slushy mess. It’s not very fun, not enough for snowshoeing, and you need to really try and catch a good snow day for sledding.

This couple inches of snow then melt thing is really getting to me. Plus, some sledding hills are remaining closed due to what they say is lack of enough snow. This really puts a damper on things when I can see there is plenty of snow on the ground, we pack up the kids and the sleds, get bundled up in all of our gear and drive 45 minutes from home just to be welcomed with closed gates and a big sign that states “sledding hill closed.” How disappointing.

And for those of you that enjoy snowshoeing, you know it takes at least 6 good inches of packed snow to make snowshoeing worthwhile. I wish I had the plentiful opportunities to snowshoe as much as Amanda Phillips of Every Two Pines blog.

I mean, what is really happening to Michigan? There used to be a saying about Michigan’s seasons. Our 4 seasons used to be Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Construction. That has just completely gone out the window this year for us Metro-Detroiters. We’ve been teased with a short-lived snowstorm and then it heats up the next day, rains, melts, then it’s gone for a couple days, then back at it again with another tease. It’s just not fair, I tell ya.

What Exactly Is The Winter Blues?

First, understand that the winter blues is really more of a general term, not a medical diagnosis. This isn’t going to last long, folks. It’s not a serious issue and it’s much more common than you think. Due to a perfect mixture of shorter days, the lack of sunlight, and colder temperatures, we northerners are more prone to that blah feeling that comes every winter after the holidays have wound down. Some characteristics of the winter blues include:

 * Less than chipper attitude

 * Hesitance toward change

 * Little to no motivation

 * Foggy thoughts

 * Lacking creativity

 * Excessive sleepiness

What Can I Do To Beat The Winter Blues?

Hang Out With Friends and/or Family

Beat the urge to become a lump on a log. Get your lazy butt off the couch and shut down the Netflix for a while. Playing online games on the Xbox with your buds does not count. Call some friends to catch up over breakfast or coffee at Old Port Inn in Clawson, Michigan or your local family restaurant or coffee shop for instance. Spending time with others helps prevent mental health problems.

Munch On Some Dark Chocolate

Who woulda thunk it? I think I can down with this one. Dark chocolate, in reasonable amounts, tells the brain to release serotonin and dopamine into the system. Dopamine helps with bumping your motivation, reduces depression, and can even help with losing some unwanted pounds.

Find or Make More Sunlight

The lack of the usual amount of sunlight our bodies are used to getting this time of year has a big impact on us. It gets dark outside early, causing us to want to go to sleep earlier than usual. It makes us want to stay in bed longer in the mornings. Sunlight and bright light boost serotonin levels in the body. Find ways to get outside, bundling up of course. Direct sunlight on your skin for at least ten minutes per day can prevent Vitamin D deficiency.

Another option would be to build a lightbox in your home. Also, although I don’t partake myself, limited ultraviolet exposure from a tanning booth can provide a serotonin level booth as well.

Travel

This is a good time of year to plan a trip to a warmer climate. Ever wanted to complete the Inca Trail to Peru’s Machu Picchu? How about a multi-day hike, enjoying the views from the base camps of Aconcagua in Argentina? Whatever your fancy, as long as it’s someplace warmer than where you are, will help lift your spirits.

Get the Blood Pumping

Physical activities help the blood to pump through the body, making you a healthier and happier individual. Head to the gym, walk the dog or the kids or both, hit the trails for a hike or create your own trails on some snowshoes if there is enough snow, go sledding, host a dance party in the family room, or brush the dust off the ol’ treadmill or stationary bike. Keeping active can really do wonders.

Laugh

If you know me, you know that I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter stimulates the lungs, your heart, and your muscles. It increased your body’s intake of oxygen and also boosts the endorphins that your brain releases. Get some close friends together for a game of Cards Against Humanity. Enjoy a show at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale, Michigan or your favorite local comedy club. Any which way you can, find ways to laugh more. I don’t just limit this activity to the winter either.

However you want to call it, if you feel down in the dumps for a prolonged period of time of three weeks or more, have a chat about it with your family physician. The doc can offer assistance getting over the winter blues and getting yourself back to the wonderful, smiling, joyous person you are used to being.

I have to say that now that I am posting this, I can now feel a tiny itch inside of me. No, it’s not that kind of itch. I can hear a little voice inside saying “Come on, Bob. What are you doing? Your love for writing hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s just been hibernating.” I have a feeling I will be back into my old routine in sharing my stories, ideas, and experiences with you all. I hope any of you with the winter blues can climb out of your slump as well. Soon.

We just got a good amount of snow on the ground now and the well-below freezing, Arctic cold that has touched Michigan recently has provided an opportunity that doesn’t look like it will last very long. So, I think I’m going to take that opportunity to head out for a good ol’ snowshoe hike, clear my mind, and get the blood pumpin’. Take your soul outdoors, my friends. It’ll thank you.

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