Embrace the Blues: How to Find the Good in Winter Sadness

So we are in the thick of it now. It’s mid-February, and we are hovering in the windy, dark corners of the winter season. The holidays are a distant memory and spring seems still buried under the cold, hard earth. Here in Atlanta we have seen more rain and snow (yes, snow!) this winter than in the past several years combined. In fact, it’s been a blustery, rainy, and mostly sunless stretch of days that has left me and many of my friends depleted and downright blue.

February can be a most unkind month. I lost both of my parents in the month of February. Valentine’s Day, for all of its hype and hearts, can highlight loneliness and pain for the un-coupled among us. The cold and harsh weather keeps us inside when we so desperately need the sunlight to boost our mood and energy.

Much has been written about how to boost your mood when the winter blues descend. Exercise, sunlight, healthy eating, positive thinking. These are valuable and worth pursuing. But sometimes there’s a stretch when the blues hang on like a heavy old coat. I’ve been pondering how the winter blues might serve me when I can’t beat them. How can the slate grey aura that surrounds many people teach us something and help us grow? Here are some thoughts that came to me as I huddle at my desk.

1. Patience.
This is a highly underrated virtue. In an age of nearly immediate gratification in all things, it’s hard to wait on happiness. That’s why we frantically scramble for something to do to make those blues go away. When all else fails, just be patient. Moods come and go. Learn the fine art of patience and watchful waiting. Come to accept that this too shall pass.

2. Rest.
Sometimes our moods send us a message. Maybe your heart, your soul, or your body needs to rest and recuperate. When our mood is low, we aren’t as productive, and for action-oriented, achieving types this can feel like the ultimate self-betrayal. Try not to struggle against your mood, and allow yourself to rest in acceptance. You will expend less energy this way and will recover more quickly.

3. Reflection
Use these wintry days as a time for reflection. Pull out some books that feed your soul. Write in a journal about how you are feeling. Sometimes just the release of expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper will help your mood lift. Practice prayer or meditation where you quiet your active mind and sit in stillness. Use this time for quiet planning, self-discovery, and goal-setting. You can still be productive and creative during this time.

4. Self Care.
Don’t berate yourself about your mood. Feeling blue is part of the normal range of human emotions. Instead of fighting your mood, embrace it. Welcome the blues as a reason to take special care of yourself. What feels comfortable and soothing to you? Take a long, hot bath. Get a massage. Watch a movie. Snuggle up with someone close. Treat yourself with kindness and the tender care you would give to your child.

5. Awareness.
Spring will come and your mood should lift. The winter blues are generally short-lived and rarely intense. They might last a few days or even a couple of weeks. But if you can’t shake the blues and feel yourself sinking lower, call your doctor. A blue mood is one thing. A full-blown depression is another. Be aware of the duration and intensity of your mood, and take action if need be.

6. Gratitude.
When your energy is low and activity is slowed down, be grateful for the small things you miss in the rush of daily life. That first sip of coffee. The burst of warm water from the shower. The red bird perched on the branch outside. There is a gift in every moment if you pay attention. Be grateful for that.