It’s March but the days are still short, cold, and dark. It is the time after the Winter holidays, where many experience the so-called “Winter Blues”. The time where we patiently wait for sunshine and warmer weather. If you feel sadder than usual and unmotivated to do anything, don’t worry.
You are not alone.
While the ‘Winter Blues’ (or how I like to say it ‘seasonal moodiness’) is common during this time of year, this year is very different. With the pandemic still going on, the effects of the Winter Blues can be tougher than in the past years. The Winter holidays in 2020 were unusual as well; starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s Eve, people were socially distancing themselves from family and friends — the very people that make the holidays so special. And since then, not much has changed. Being in lockdown and self-isolation has made it even harder for us to find the motivation and go through these darker Winter times.
What are the differences between ‘Winter Blues’ and ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’?
When people talk about ‘Winter Blues’, they also like to talk about ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or ‘SAD’. These two terms may seem alike at first, but there are crucial differences. You need to understand these differences because it helps to know which one you’re going through. According to the American Psychological Association, SAD is a more severe form of the Winter Blues. SAD is a type of depression that lasts for a season and then goes away after. Symptoms of SAD are close to those of depression: the person can feel exhausted, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, and either can’t sleep well or sleeps excessively during the day.
Winter Blues seem similar to SAD but are a milder and more temporary form of it. The most important distinction is that having the Winter Blues does not usually inhibit your ability to enjoy life. Let's look at its symptoms a little closer. According to Verywell Mind, people with the Winter Blues sometimes feel sad, have some trouble sleeping and show a lack of motivation. Most importantly, they don’t show signs of depression. So occasionally feeling down during these months can be a sign of the Winter Blues. However, if those more negative feelings interfere with your daily life and activities, it could be a sign of something more serious.
How to embrace your Winter Blues
Nature’s seasons are part of life. Embracing the Winter Blues means accepting what this colder season offers! There are many people who’d prefer these times and even find it peaceful in the dark and rainy days. But if you prefer blue skies and sunshine like me, the easiest way to find the positives in this Winter season is to make the most out of these few colder months.
For example, go on a walk in the snow and breathe in the fresh air — it’s refreshing and will help you clear your mind. If there’s enough snow, you could even go out and build a snowman! When’s the last time you’ve done that? But if the cold outside is not really your thing, make yourself comfortable at home. Enjoy a good movie with a hot drink or cozy up on your couch with your favorite book. If you want to do something indoors, no problem; I have another option for you. Take the cold and rainy days to declutter, say goodbye to old things and freshen up your space. Trust me, you will feel very accomplished after! And once the warmer days come around, you won’t even have to worry about Spring cleaning and have more time for fun activities!
5 Tips on how to get your Motivation Back
As mentioned before, one common symptom of the winter blues is a lack of motivation. And personally, I’ve been struggling with that as well. Getting your motivation back is hard. It’s especially hard when you try motivating yourself too much, and instead of feeling up and ready to conquer the world, you actually feel worse than before. While there are some products out there that help with your Winter Blues, such as having a light box in your room, there are some things that are in your control to do to help you regain your energy and mental wellness. The past weeks I have focused on activities that helped me find my motivation. Maybe these will help you as well:
Please note that this is not medical advice. If you feel that your Winter Blues have been more severe, and you experience some of these symptoms intensely. Please seek professional clinical help.
1. Change to a healthy diet.
I know you’ve heard it many times, but before you jump to the next tip, let me tell you that focusing on your diet is key in getting your motivation back. Studies show that once you eat healthier, you feel better (check out our blog about some stress-reducing foods too!).
Personally, I started the day with a healthy breakfast, some herbal tea, and extra vitamin D (since the sun barely showed its face the past weeks where I’m at). Once you have that routine in, you will feel your body changing and your mood improving as well. A healthy diet can also include some chocolate or candy, whatever you prefer, but in moderation, of course!
2. Regularly review your goals and progress.
It is easy to forget our achievements when we don’t feel good. We have a cluttered mind, and it seems impossible to find something positive. But reviewing your goals will get you going. So the first step is to write your goals down — preferably somewhere where you can see them daily. It will remind you of them and encourage your motivation. The same goes for your progress. Noting down your progress will help you with remembering them. And when you can’t find anything positive, you’ll be able to look back at all the amazing things you have achieved.
3. Build a regular exercise routine in your daily schedule.
Another classic is physical activity. There’s a reason doctors prescribe regular walks! It is free medicine. Besides that, it has other significant benefits like boosting your energy level and it helps you to stay focused. You can go on a walk or watch a living room workout video. And if you are more the Yoga type, that also great. The key is consistency — have at least 30 minutes each day dedicated to your exercise routine and you will see amazing results on your overall mood which will heighten your motivation.
4. Surround yourself with positive people (virtually too).
The people in your life are important and so is their mood. Being around positive people can help you find your motivation, whether in-person or online. Since we are in a global pandemic, many of us have maintained our connections and friendships over social media. But be mindful when you’re interacting with different people or strangers on these social media platforms — sometimes they can be brutal and mean. People online sit behind a device that protects them and they think they can voice whatever comes to their mind. Make sure you are in control of what you’re exposed to on your social media and the people you follow. If you feel that certain people have not been helping with your motivation, you have the power and choice to unfollow them.
5. Make your bed.
You are probably rolling your eyes right now, but this has been a game-changer for me. Making my bed helped me with my mood and overall motivation. When I felt like napping or felt tempted to lounge on my bed, I thought about it twice since I didn’t want to mess up my beautiful bed. I started my day by completing a goal. Yes, making my bed is a goal of mine and it feels great each morning because I’ve already accomplished a goal before leaving my bedroom. The best thing is, this goal is so achievable, and I do it in less than 2 minutes! And lastly, if I had a bad day, I would at least come home to a nice bed.
These tips are easy to read, but in reality, fighting your Winter Blues takes time and effort. Start with small steps to kick start your positive cycle of motivation. Remember that each little step is still progress and once you put in that extra effort, it will be much easier to build your momentum and your energy will go up from there. You’ll see how much you can achieve even during these cold and dark winter months. Lastly, if you feel you might fall back into old habits, ask a friend to hold you accountable for your actions. Together, you both will be able to regain motivation and improve your mental wellness!
As you try out these 5 tips to kick start your positive cycle of motivation, always remember you can be your own sunshine until the real one comes back. You are in control of your body and mind. Keep your head high and fight those Winter Blues!
By: Jil Johannpeter