This is the time of year where the cold, dark days seem to endlessly blur together. The sky is perpetually grey and there are constant traces of salt on all of your shoes, refusing to give you respite from the weather, even when indoors.
When I awaken in the morning, it's dark. When I leave the office in the evening, it's dark. Every time I step outside my breath is caught short by the sharp, frigid air, which somehow seeps in through my boots and gloves, leaving my toes and fingers frozen, despite my double layer of socks. Each winter as I skate along the icy sidewalks I'm guaranteed a minimum of one wipe out, rated at least a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10 for embarrassing moments. But instead of letting my mood plummet with the weather, I make time for the little things that bring a smile to my face, such as hot chocolate, catching up with far away friends on the phone, getting a pedicure, meeting friends after work for dinner or a drink, and trying a new yoga or workout class (even better when it's free!).
Some people may find it difficult to identify those things that bring them joy. If this is the case, I encourage you to try something new and then take the time to explore the experience, asking yourself what you did and didn't like about it. Practice this process for several novel activities, each time, noting aspects you did and did not enjoy. Eventually, you’ll have a list of things you like and don't, and will be more aware of your interests and what will be more likely to bring you joy.
Other people may know what makes them happy, but are challenged by time constraints or are unable to find much motivation to get them out of their winter rut. In order to prevent the winter from melding into one long depressing day, try making plans with others for an activity you genuinely enjoy, but that is a little bit further in the future. Maybe plan a day-trip to go skiing or visit friends or family over a long weekend. You will have something to look forward to and including others will increase the chance that you'll actually engage in an activity that you like. Furthermore, identify 2 -3 things that you love and work to incorporate these into your daily, weekly or monthly routine. That might be a monthly massage, a weekly bubble bath, and a daily phone call.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Aim to accept your thoughts and feelings by being compassionate, complimentary, loving, and lenient.
Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is bilingual (Spanish/English) and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x23.