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Easy Tips to Fend Off the Winter Blahs and Feel Better

By Erica Patino
December 29, 2023

After the holiday hustle and bustle has finished and the short days and long, dark nights of winter have set in, do you find yourself staying in more, seeing friends less, and generally feeling a bit lackluster? If this sounds familiar, you may have started to settle into a case of the post-holiday winter blahs.

Although a case of the winter blahs isn’t a medical diagnosis, Diane Solomon, Ph.D., a psychiatric nurse practitioner based in Portland, Oregon, says mild down feelings that come and go are especially common this time of year.

And according to Rachel Kaplan, L.C.S.W., a psychotherapist based in New York City, “Even if you're someone who generally loves being out and about, interacting with others and keeping a busy social schedule, this may be a time of year that makes you feel like you have less energy, less motivation to be active or social, or you may even be feeling less happy or ‘like yourself.’ ”.

How Reframing the Winter Months May Help

The word koselig in Norwegian translates to “cozy,” but it’s also a concept for how Norwegians deal with long, cold winters. They focus on creating a warm, welcoming home environment, enjoying the company of others, and connecting with nature.

“Attitude is everything,” Solomon explains. “If we make special time—even just a couple minutes daily or a couple times weekly—to focus on the positive, like a heated home, hot water, family, food, and loved ones, we can increase gratitude and positivity.”

5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

Reclaim the winter months as a time to nurture your spirit with these simple tips to take care of yourself and embrace koselig.

Reach Out to Others

The cold and darkness of the season can increase the urge to hibernate, but making the effort to connect with others may help beat the winter blahs. Need ideas? The American Psychological Association suggests checking in on neighbors, reaching out to an old friend, or volunteering at a local charity. “Make one to two social plans a week, even if sometimes that just means a phone or Zoom date with a friend or family member,” Kaplan says.

Create a Comforting Evening Ritual

Mark the end of your workday with a soothing practice. It could be curling up with a book, talking to a friend or partner, meditating, or listening to music. “If you have a plan to keep yourself more focused on the positive, your mood will naturally improve,” Solomon says. What’s more, you’ll have something to look forward to even as the nighttime darkness sets in.

Appreciate the Outdoors

“Being immersed in nature and getting out into the world instead of withdrawing and socially isolating helps to improve mood, perspective, and drive,” Kaplan says. Getting out in the fresh air, whether you take off 20 minutes to run a few errands along tree-lined streets or stroll through a park, may fortify you against the winter blahs. Research suggests that spending 120 minutes in nature each week is associated with better health and well‑being.

Enjoy the Little Things

The act of savoring, or being mindful of and appreciating experiences and details in your daily life, has been shown to increase positive emotions and mood. Try noticing the intricate shadows cast by the leafless trees or the comforting heat given off by your mug of morning coffee. Breathe deeply to stay in the present, and be sure you are only doing or paying attention to that one thing.

“Mark the moment in your mind and, if you’re alone, invite gratitude. If you're with loved ones, mention what you're trying to savor and share the good,” Solomon suggests.

Practice Self-Compassion

It's okay if you're feeling a little less energetic or motivated right now, Kaplan says. You might journal to express yourself or lean on a family member or friend for support. “Listen and respond to your needs, and remind yourself that this is temporary,” Kaplan adds.

When you feel frustrated or impatient with your mood or lack of energy, challenge yourself to respond to negative thoughts as though you are a friend. You might find you have a little more grace for yourself when you step outside of yourself.

One Last Word…

If your mood is still low despite your best efforts, or the winter blahs are starting to affect your ability to function in your daily life, talk with your doctor. You may be dealing with a more serious condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of major depression, according to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. If you do have SAD, there are many effective treatments, including light therapy, psychotherapy, and medications.

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