By Alex Davis
If we’re being honest here, January can be a real bummer. The holidays are over, it is bitter cold, the snow starts to lose its luster after a while, and we face a depressing expanse of weeks with no holiday or break in sight.
But feeling listless or down in January can be more than just post-holiday doldrums. According to some research, about five percent of the population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a feeling of mild depression that is associated with the changing seasons. Of those affected, more than half are women. While the causes of SAD are not yet determined, some studies suggest that the reduced sunlight affects levels of melatonin, a hormone that can contribute to depressed mood.
While we may not be able to avoid SAD-like symptoms if they strike, there are things we can do to pull ourselves out of the winter slump. In fact, cold days can bring lots of opportunities: good conversations around a fire or homemade dinner, a chance to tackle your mile-long reading list or conquer a new creative project or goal, an excuse to finally watch The Crown (on my personal list!), or a girls’ night in.
There seems to be a cultural movement to embrace the present moment even with its flaws. Concepts like “hygge” are dominating media, particularly in winter when people seek ways to introduce comfort, intimacy, simplicity, and warmth into their daily routines. There is something valuable we can all take away from its tendency to invite reflection and find new ways to have fun, relax, unwind, and embrace our natural rhythms rather than fight them.
What if this winter, instead of willing the season to end, we try to enjoy the best of what is has to offer? Sure, with winter comes frustrating commutes (people forget how to operate motor vehicles when snow is in the forecast), ugly and slushy black snow piles, bone chilling wind gusts, and darkness by 5 pm. But there are also warm socks, fires, hot chocolate, snow days, books, and nights in with friends.
So, friends, here’s to making the most out of this season and even finding new ways to have fun. I put together a short list of some ideas to kick winter blues out into the cold. Try one out this weekend, and let me know how you enjoyed it!
1. Make this recipe and serve with your favorite wine for Italian restaurant quality food right at home. Serve it with some baked seasoned chicken and a massive green salad. Follow our Pinterest board for more recipe ideas!
2. Host a classic movie night. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Funny Face, To Catch a Thief, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bishop’s Wife, An Affair to Remember, North by Northwest, Bringing up Baby, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
3. Eat ½ a jar of nutella while standing at the open pantry.
Whoops. Wrong list!
4. To this point, try to go easy on the sugars and white flours and if you do indulge, make it intentional. I know, I know. You already get enough obnoxious health advice. #shutup. But really, studies show that certain vitamin rich foods like eggs, salmon, and kale can actually boost mood and energy levels when it is frigid and gray outside – and trust me, there is something to this. If pizza is simply calling your name, throw several handfuls of fresh spinach on top and add olive oil for an extra health boost. Or, try this recipe I make that comprises only Trader Joe’s recipes. (This is not sponsored in any way – I just love Trader Joe’s.)
- I package of whole wheat Naan (4 pieces)
- Olive Oil
- 1 jar of TJ’s basil marinara sauce
- 1 log of fresh pre-sliced mozzarella cheese
- 4 small vine-ripened tomatoes
- Pinch of salt
- Grated pecorino and romano cheese
- Fresh basil
Spread ¼ jar of marinara sauce on each piece of Naan. Layer each piece with slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and add a few pieces of fresh basil to each. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until mozzarella starts to melt. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the pecorino romano cheeses (or, if you’re me, dump half of the container on one pizza). Slice and enjoy!
5. Schedule small things to look forward to in your weeks. These small joys can be as simple as picking up your favorite coffee drink on the way to work or planning to meet a friend for dinner one night. Whatever it may be, sprinkling in fun things will help you avoid feeling as though you’ve got nothing but a desolate stretch of winter ahead of you.
6. Plan a “staycation” with your spouse, significant other, or best friends. This can either involve a day-in spent testing new recipes, playing board games, or reading books. Or, it can include visiting a new attraction in your town (for ideas in the Triangle area, check out this app!) or resolving to try a new restaurant, followed by a Harris Teeter run to grab ingredients to make your own dessert at home.
7. Try essential oils for lifting your energy levels and fighting stress. I keep a bottle of this lavender in my office. Also try peppermint or spearmint to boost your energy levels.
8. Give yourself an at-home spa treatment! Try out this sugar scrub and take a hot bath.
9. Want to give yourself a healthy diet overhaul but don’t want to commit to Whole 30? Try visiting your local farmers market to see what’s in season, and challenge yourself to try three new recipes that incorporate those ingredients.
10. Some newer yoga or pilates studios try to entice people to join by offering free trial classes – often with complimentary wine afterwards. Bounce around and try out some different spots. Grab a friend and turn it into a day out.
11. If it’s in the budget, take a long weekend somewhere sunny! You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars or board a plane. My husband and I love getting to the North Carolina coast for a weekend or even a day trip. It doesn’t have to be hot (or expensive) to get away and clear your mind.
Featured Image by @wonderfelle Media