I remember last year's winter, 2016, in South Korea. My friend Ellie and I were feeling down. South Korean winters are long, cold and particularly brutal. In short they left us feeling blue, deprived of sun and depressed that going outside was actually dangerous (winter winds get below -20 Celsius where we lived).
With last year's horrible Winter behind us I decided that this year I would approach Winter in a very different manner and, I resolved, I would never suffer a depressing Winter again. Now when I say 'depression' I am not referring to hating the cold, no, I really mean a change in temperament and a general downcast feeling that can make maintaining your regular life incredibly difficult. It is also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) where someone will otherwise exhibit normal mental health throughout the rest of the year, except for the season in which they are affected, normally Winter.
So what has been my approach this Winter?
1. Find a place that does Winter well
One of the things that can compound your feeling down in staying in all the time. In colder climates it's what we do, it's cold, windy and horrible out so why not stay in and keep warm? It's a dangerous cycle for mental health and can lead to 'cabin fever'.
This year we are 'over wintering' in the UK. Teaming with Christmas Markets we have been able to change our mindsets and look forward to heading out into the snow for some mulled wine. Of course this is not available in all cold countries but finding something worth going out for, on a semi-regular basis, will really lift your mood.
2. Get a hobby, set goals and have something to work towards
If you find you are spending a lot of time indoors don't fear, I too live inside four walls and have learned to survive. Many people find that have some sort of hobby really helps with motivating them to do more than sleep and eat when they are at home.
For many people, during winter, they leave the house for work and to run errands - we need to eat still! I think one of the best ways to keep yourself from lodging in front of the TV is to set yourself goals. Some people work on their bodies during winter, some people want to work on their skills, I like to do both. Find something that works for you; studying, acquiring a new skills, working out, art projects, writing or something else that interests you. Winter is the perfect time to accomplish those goals.
3. Get a Happy Light
If you are still struggling then you might want to look into purchasing a Happy Light. Essentially it is supposed to mimic the sun's rays and trick the body into better concentration, happiness and a boost in energy. It's simple, you set up a little light box and sit in front of it for around one hour a day, they can be purchased easily on Amazon. A word of warning, do your research, not all lights are created equal - look for one that has at least 10,000 lux of UV-free light. Verilux and Carex are constantly well rated, just find one that suits your needs and budget.
My friend and I would sit in her apartment, during my time teaching in South Korea, drink tea and soak up the Happy Light rays whilst having a chit chat. I'm not really sure if it was the light, chats, or tea which improved my mood but it definitely helped.
4. Cook your favourite food
Don't feel compelled the eat exclusively stews during the cold months. At first they are warm and comforting but they soon become same-samey. As I travel I collect recipes that I recreate at home or when cooking for other people.
At the moment I am really into cooking Italian risotto, Sri Lankan curries and Greek menemen breakfasts. It really is the perfect time to recreate those dishes that take you right back to an amazing trip. It also has the added bonus of heating the house up, the more time you spend in the kitchen over the stove the less the heater has to be on - it works in theory.
Whatever you find works for you, remember Winter is but one season of the year. Hang in there!