Feelings of thankfulness and appreciation may be the tools for keeping winter blues at bay
If the shortened daylight hours, colder temperatures, and ongoing pandemic have left you with feelings of low energy or melancholy, you may be experiencing the winter blues.
Unlike seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a medical diagnosis marked by such symptoms as changes in eating and sleeping habits, difficulty maintaining relationships, or even feelings of apathy toward existence – winter blues are more mild than serious and fairly common. Though winter blues will usually clear on their own, you can take steps to leave the condition out in the cold.
Go with Gratitude
“Gratitude supports well-being because it helps people refocus on what they have instead of on what they lack,” says Peter Bolo, MD, interim medical director for Atlantic Behavioral Health and the resiliency advocate for Atlantic Health System. He suggests reflecting on what you’re thankful for in life and to whom you are thankful. “Gratitude is in the spirit of the holidays – peace on earth, goodwill toward man. Expressing gratitude to someone lifts them up and lifts you up,” he says. “It’s true that there are many things to be upset about; it’s helpful to have things to put in the ‘plus’ category and to put your mental energy into those things.”
Accentuate the Positive
Anxiety is contagious, but so is positivity, says Dr. Bolo, and optimism is associated with a more positive mood. “For those who can muster it, showing gratitude, optimism and a peaceful persona can help others. It’s a gift to other people.”
Be Thankful for Things Big and Small
Accept that the world is different this year. Then you can reinvent the season and how you celebrate its moments. “Allow yourself to have more flexibility. Find new ways to celebrate, like smaller celebrations or virtual celebrations,” Dr. Bolo says, pointing out that there are upsides to these changes too. There is less pressure to do all of the usual preparations, and less pressure to go out. “Use this time of crisis as a time for deep and meaningful exchanges with people,” he says. “Be grateful for those opportunities.”