While I don't think I'm a particularly SAD person, I do have a slightly harder time regulating my mood in the winter, particularly in January and February when the novelty of the snow and the cute sweaters has worn off.
Here are a few tips that have helped brighten my mood on dreary days. Obviously, wearing polka-dot socks isn't going to cure a real case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (for that, try a "happy lamp"), but if you're just a little bit blue—you know in the steel blue range vs. a deep, dark navy—maybe these ideas will help.
1. Go Where the People Are
One of the things that I both love and hate about winter is my tendency to hibernate. I do love cozying up next to the fireplace under a warm quilt to read a good book late into the evening. But since I've been working primarily from home over the last 5 years, I find the extra isolation from people in the winter can affect my mood. A new gym finally opened up within 10 minutes of my house, and it seems that is where all the people of Bluffdale and Riverton are. Pulling into that crowded parking lot at 7 or 8 at night gives me an instant energy flicker; the boost doesn't usually arrive until after the workout. Oh, I don't exactly talk to anyone. But there's something about being in the same cavernous room with a hundred sweaty strangers that increases my feelings of camaraderie and common humanity. (Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write.)
2. Drive to the Sun
Last Sunday, we needed an escape from the endless gray skies. We packed a lunch and a bunch of snacks, and we headed into the nearby desert. We drove and drove until we saw the sun. Out in the wilderness, southwest of Salt Lake County, you can hook into the old Pony Express Trail and drive it for 133 miles (no services), until you reach Fish Springs, a strange and isolated oasis. Sometimes you won't see another living creature. We saw maybe five other cars all day long. Sometimes you'll see a few rabbits and wild mustang, like we did on Sunday. Sometimes you'll even see a massive herd of antelope running through the brush in the same direction you're driving (that happened once in 2005, and it was magical). We rolled the windows down and breathed in the unspoiled, clear air. We sat at a picnic table in the middle of nowhere and ate peanut butter sandwiches with the sun on our faces. We soaked up enough vitamin D to last us a week. When we weren't chewing or talking or tromping through the patchy snow, we could hear literally nothing. Dead silence for miles around. We road-tripped on paved and dirt paths for 7 or 8 hours, just there and back, stopping to expolore here and there, talking and not talking, listening to satellite radio, reading The Lord of the Rings, connecting. I believe that any journey, no matter how small, can enliven a dreary week.
Keira Jane standing on green volcanic rock near Simpson Springs. I love that her fingers are crossed! Even this much blue sky was a balm for the soul.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Pony Express trail was only operational for one year before it was made obsolete by the overland telegraph? For having such a brief history, it sure holds a big place in Western lore.
3. Wash a Window
Perhaps you are a more diligent window washer than I am. Perhaps you clean your windows more than once every year (or two, sheepish grin). If so, you may not see as great an effect. But I've found that taking a moment to thoroughly clean just one window, even if freezing temperatures make it impossible to address more than the inside of the glass, quite literally improves my outlook. On Wednesday, on day three of a self-imposed sick-child quarantine, I pulled out a stool and washed my kitchen window while I waited for the water to boil for lunch. I couldn't stop gazing through that clear, bright glass for the rest of the day. I had been looking at the world through a blurry, build-up of film for I don't know how long. I can't quite describe how I felt after that simple, 2-minute Windex job—cleansed, refreshed, lifted somehow.
4. Wear Bright Socks
I have a pair of blindingly bright orange socks with lime-green toes and fuschsia polka-dots. I'm fairly sure they were a gift, because I can't imagine picking them out. They are the softest, coziest socks ever darned. I wear them incessantly in the winter. Artist and blogger Kelly Rae Roberts talks of getting #dressedupinjoy. I love that idea. Many days, I dress in what fits well and feels comfortable. I haven't yet taken the leap into dressing intentionally each day in joyful colors and fabrics, head to toe. But this is an easy feat to accomplish on one's feet. Even while wearing my current favorite black leggings and gray-and-white striped sweater, the splash of color on my feet makes me happy. (Is it weird that I love the color gray? Is it even a color at all—or is it the absence of color? I have to physically restrain myself from buying every article of clothing in gray.)
5. Have Something to Look Forward To
Plan something, anything, to pin your hopes on and pull you through doldrums. On our Sunday road trip, Travis and I decided that we need to do this way more often. We made a goal to plan an intentional (not last-minute) weekend adventure every other month, and to take turns doing the planning. Trav is in charge of February, and I'm in charge of April. On his months, we will probably end up in Moab or Canyonlands, crusing through miles of open desert, hiking through the red rocks, and photographing the stark, incomparable landscape. On my months, we may end up in a quaint little bed and breakfast, with window-shopping, antiquing, and sightseeing nearby. We have both agreed to go along with the other person's plans, knowing that we'll have a chance to be in charge next time. Don't get me wrong; I do love our southern Utah adventures, but I wouldn't necessarily plan every vacation there. Travis would. Whereas I dream of seeing the wide world beyond our little borders, Travis wants to know every miniscule corner of the great state in which we live. It's another way that we push and pull each other and keep each other in balance. I'm glad I married my opposite in almost every way. My life is richer because of it.
Note: Image at the top of this post was snapped from my iPhone on Christmas Eve at the top of the Snowbird Ski Resort tram, looking west over the Salt Lake Valley.
What are your favorite ways to beat the winter blues? I'd love to hear them!