5 Ways to Lift Yourself Up from the Darkness of Winter

by Henrik Edberg

5 Ways to Lift Yourself Up from the Darkness of Winter
Image by josef.stuefer.

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.”
Albert Camus

It’s really dark here in Sweden right now.

The town I grew up in had 23 minutes of sunlight last month. Not 23 minutes of sunlight on a dreary December day but 23 minutes during the whole month. The rest was just cloudy, rainy and dark skies.

The weather can have quite an effect during such dreary times. I definitely am sleeping more now than a few months ago. But I also feel that the winter doesn’t wield as much power over me as it did a few years ago.

Here are five things that I have done to boost my energy and mood during the darkest months. If you live in place were the sunlight seems to have gone on vacation then maybe you can something good out of these tips too.

1. Exercise.

As Arnold says, exercise releases anxiety and tension within you. I like to lift weights a couple of time a week and the boosts of energy, testosterone and other hormones I get from lifting has a big effect. I feel stronger and more relaxed. It keeps me from getting lost in over thinking and doubts. For me, it’s probably the most important of these five factors.

2. Focus on the good stuff.

If you focus on the rain and darkness it will expand within your mind. It will feel even worse and have more power over you. There is no need to go there though. Keep your focus on your work, on your hobbies, on relaxing, on family and friends etc. Expand the good stuff inside your mind and pay little attention to the dreary things.

3. Meditate.

I have been using Paraliminals, a form of guided meditations on CDs, to boost my mood and energy for quite a while. My favourite during the last few months has been Perfect Health. I’ve been listening to that one about 2-3 times a week. It only takes 20 minutes but it always seems to give me a positive boost in mood and energy. I have also used it more intensely twice this winter when I’ve felt a cold coming on. Both times it resulted in just a sore throat for a few days compared to the full-blown cold that I usually get.

I haven’t tried more “normal” meditations but from what I have read it seems like most forms of mediation – if used consistently – will result in a better and more stable mood and higher energy levels.

4. Change your environment.

This is a bit of an odd suggestion I suppose but I think it has had a small effect on me. The basic idea that I have written about before is that your environment has a big impact on you. So you can change your environment to change yourself.

I am for instance using summer-like wallpaper for my laptop with two people swimming in a beautiful warm, blue ocean. While the weather outside the window might be bad, the weather inside my laptop is awesome. And that has a small positive emotional effect.

You can of course expand on this to make much of your environment more spring or summer-like. A few suggestions off the top of my head:

  • Change the posters and the stuff you have on the walls.
  • Brighten up your home and workspace with more light and redecorate with light colors.
  • Use more flowers and other living things.
  • Install brighter light bulbs.

And do your own brainstorm on how you can make your environment more uplifting.

5. Enjoy the remaining daylight.

Spend as much time as you can in the remaining daylight. Go for a walk or a run. Let as much sunlight as possible flow into your workspace and home.

What are your best tip for lifting yourself out of the darkness of winter?

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{ 12 comments }

Locutus January 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm

My best tip: Don’t fight the depression if you know it is coming anyway and if you know it will leave again when the light returns. Give it room, try to lessen your workload and obligations or other things that are affected. I feel depressed every year around nov-dec with the cold and the darkness, but the last 2 years I welcomed it as an old grumpy friend, just going with the flow until january when the light is winning again and the sun gains power.

Henrik Edberg January 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for the tip, Locutus.

Never the Same River Twice January 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm

My bes tip for dealing with the winter blahs is to get a full-spectrum lightbox, lamp or at least a bulb or two. This type of light simulates sunlight much better than incandescent, fluorescent or halogen bulbs.

I have a full-fledged 10,000 lux lamp on my desk at work and people literally stand up straighter and smile as they walk past!

At least in the U.S. full-spectrum lights are generally available in home improvement and hardware stores. If you can’t find one locally, a search for “full-spectrum lamps” will give you lots of choices.

Revilre January 21, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Take vitamin D supplements! During the summer our bodies are supposed to make enough to get us through the winter. Whenever we are exposed to sunlight Vitamin D is produced in the skin. The problem is, in the winter its cloudy, and in places like Sweden you’re so far north the UVB light that activates the process doesn’t even get to you on a clear day.

Our bodies use about 4000 IU daily, if we’re not taking supplements we will deplete our stores. And if during the summer you didn’t build up good stores because you were indoors much of the time, or it was cloudy, or you always wore sunscreen, or always kept totally covered, you’re starting out low.

The governments of many countries say take 400 IU or maybe a bit more, the problem is these numbers are based on the assumption over the summer you reached a state where you had sufficient levels of vitamin D to sustain you through the winter. Unfortunately for most of us this is not the case.

So my tip! Take 2000 – 4000 IU daily of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), to prevent what stores you have from being depleted. If you’re really concerned you can see a doctor and get blood tests to check what your current levels are. In some countries you need a prescription to get the supplements (mostly EU countries), but its worth it! It helps with bone health, depression, cancer risks, bone and muscle pain, its one of the most prevalent hormones in our body.

Jennifer January 21, 2008 at 6:55 pm

I use a light therapy box. It’s a Medlight II that I got on eBay for about $130. I’ve been using it in the early morning for a couple of weeks and I do think it’s helping. (Of course, I live in Southern California, so I must be a wimp. I can’t imagine living in the northern climes.)

LK January 22, 2008 at 5:54 am

Lately, I’ve tried to reflect over a memory when it was warm and sunny.

For instance, just last week the sun was beaming on my face and bringing warmth to my soul as I washed my car, and now that it is a cold dreary week, I’ve been continually reflecting over that moment. I try to reflect on that moment and pretend I actually feel the warmth of the sun.

Another booster for me is to read motivating quotes, to read inspirational stories that lift my mood, and to pray more.

Henrik Edberg January 22, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Thanks for all the great tips! I especially liked LK’s about reflecting over warm memories. :) And I’ll probably do a bit more reading about vitamin D supplements.

Beth January 23, 2008 at 12:08 am

23 minutes of sunlight in a whole month? Wow. That’s crazy.
To lift myself out of the darkness in winter, I like to play upbeat music and dance about to it – particularly summer tunes that blast away the winter blues!

Kyle I January 23, 2008 at 4:01 am

This is always a hard time of year for me because I don’t like being out in the snow and cold. On top of that there’s not as much sunlight. And on top of that I can’t do the things I love, like riding my bike or taking my dog swimming. So I get tired, depressed, angry…..you know the drill….

One thing my Doctor recommended to me was to find a “crutch” to get through this time when things are a bit rough and in a way, give in to some of those feelings and be lazy. I think things like going to the gym to stay active are important, but I also think this is my body telling me to slow down for a bit and take the opportunity to do nothing. A crutch could be as simple as watching a bunch of movies or as much as taking a vacation to a warm place.

K Stone January 25, 2008 at 5:50 am

Wow. How much light do you get each day where you live now?

I can already see the days getting longer and the sun getting even a little stronger. This morning was very bright and it felt so good on my eyes. We have sunlight here from 7am-4:40pm now approx.

For me, this winter I’ve been listening to a lot of great fun upbeat music and singing along nice and loud. Luckily my 4 year old is still young enough to like my singing. :)

Henrik Edberg January 26, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Kris: I get more sunshine here on the coast where I live now. But it’s a lot of rain and almost no snow this winter. It used to be colder and quite a bit of snow during previous years. Now it’s just rain just about every day. A bit boring I suppose. My umbrella is getting a good workout. :)

C Lauf February 27, 2008 at 4:16 am

My mom and I always get very depressed during the winter and it is nice to see that we are not the only ones. I don’t have any tips myself but all of yours were very helpful!! Thanks a buch!

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