Winter can be a gloomy, even depressing, season. From November through March, it’s darker longer while the weather is colder, cloudier, and wetter.
It’s not unusual for people to experience diminished energy and increased lethargy. Colds and the flu seem especially prevalent. Yet winter can be a spiritually creative, intellectually productive, and emotionally informative time. Here’s some ways to beat the winter blues and feel good when the weather is bad.
Winter is an ideal time to heighten your spiritual disciplines and deepen inner life.
With less sunlight outdoors and more time spent indoors, you can utilize those indoor hours to study, reflect, and pray.
Browse online for some spiritual self-help and inspirational books or look to your church’s library, if they have one, to take some books home if possible.
Try to join a mid-week Bible Study Group or attend a weekday service or devotional.
It is best to set aside time each day for private prayer. Subscribe to a podcast. I particularly like “Morning Mindset” which is an Apple Podcast. It’s great to help set your mind first thing in the morning which helps me get through the day.
Go on a retreat!
Check if your church or any other local churches are hosting a retreat. Retreats are a great way to participate in groups, pray, and get spiritual direction from an experienced leader. If you have the time, you can even see if there’s a weeklong winter retreat in your area. You may even find that you can book the same retreat each year to help you strengthen during this time. Unplugging from the barrage of stimulus from phones, computers and television revives the soul.
Prepare for joy.
Remind yourself of the biblical passage: “Do not be sad: the joy of Yahweh is your stronghold” (Neh. 8:10). Rather than simply dreading the dead of winter, prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually to experience joy.
Begin an exercise program.
Shorter days and longer nights make winter an ideal time to work out at a gym or take an individual exercise class. Not only will your body improve, but so will your mood, because exercise beats the winter blues.
Watch what you eat.
Be mindful of the connection between food and mood. This can be hard because we tend to want comfort food when we are experiencing the winter blues. Food can have an adverse effect on your mood. Typically, many people experience weight gain during winter. One simple technique for minimizing winter laziness is reducing fat consumption. This helps you maintain a normal weight and leaves you feeling more energetic.
Acknowledge your attributes.
On a dreary day, it’s easy to get down on yourself, as well as the weather. Many of us can come down hard on ourselves and magnify our own faults instead of remembering and acknowledging our assets, attributes, and talents that God gives us. Take an inventory of your strengths and successes. To start you off, here’s a few questions I can think of to ask yourself:
- Are you a good friend?
- Do your volunteer or donate your time to organizations?
- Do you make it to work every day?
- Are you a good parent, daughter, or son?
After taking inventory, celebrate the good in your life by giving yourself a compliment (yes, say it out loud), buy yourself something nice, enjoy a bath or take in a dinner or movie. Do something for yourself.
This is a good way to punch holes into the darkness of winter. Wake up each morning expressing to yourself, “this is going to be a great day,” or “I am going to do constructive things today.” Speak positive sentiments throughout the day to yourself. Through repetition, the idea of hopefulness will imbed itself in your thought pattern. It is true that many of the miserable feelings we have are self-manufactured by how we think and speak. Practice hopefulness, talk hopefulness, and you will begin to feel better. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
Express gratitude daily.
This is my favorite. Every morning and every night I praise God. “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col. 3:15).
Give yourself some tender loving care (TLC).
We don’t often give ourselves enough tender loving care especially during rough periods. We tend to take half-hearted measures consuming too much food, shopping compulsively, drinking alcohol or consuming drugs to deal with our depressed state instead of listening to soothing music, taking quiet walks, asking family or friends to listen to us, or simply watch a funny movie. I’m reminded of a very tough time when my daughter’s boyfriend passed away at the young age of 17. We took her to see a specialist to deal with her feelings and the therapist told her to sit down for an hour and a half to watch a funny movie. Initially, I thought she was crazy — but you know what? It took her mind off her depression for simply a short time, and it helped. She was with her loving family and occupied by a funny movie. Was she still sad and depressed? Absolutely — but it was some tender loving care that she needed to do.
Lastly, be patient.
Remember the winter weather will change.