Everything to avoid a winter depression

Dear Bloggers,

When we opened the curtains this morning, the world around us was covered in snow.
My kids were excited, but I start too hate the down parts of this beautiful scenery, instead of enjoying it, but somehow I can’t anymore.
As my wife has to go by car to work, she had to leave early as the forecast was not to good this morning.
There were a lot of accidents reported due to slippery roads and places where they had to deal with glazed frost, they even have closed certain highways because of these so called glaze on the roads.
Gritting was impossible for a few hours.

Tomorrow my kids go ice skating on natural ice, even though the temperatures are rising a bit above zero.
It has been freezing pretty hard for a few nights, strange enough they are having lower temperatures in the south of my country.
I think that I will see my daughter for the first time on ice skates.
As the winters were not that good the last few years.
I am looking forward to see her hassling with her skates, I have explained her that ice skating is about enjoying yourself and not about how great you are.

We've officially entered the hard months, although the days are getting slightly longer, the "dark ages" as the midshipmen at the Naval Academy say: the time of the year when the sun disappears and the pale complexions of your friends remind you that you better take your vitamins or else you'll have a cold to go with your pasty look.
I fear winter each year because many of my depression busters require sunny skies and temperatures in the 20°C.
What does a guy who walks, swims and bikes do for sanity in the winter?
Lots of things.
Here are a few of them:

Careful with sugar.
I think our body gets the cue just before Saint Nicholas that it will be hibernating for a few months, so it needs to ingest everything edible in sight.
And I'm convinced the snow somehow communicates to the human brain the need to consume every kind of chocolate available in the house.
We are mammals, yes, so do we think we need an extra layer of fat in the winter to keep us warm?
I'm starting to think so.
Depressives and addicts need to be especially careful with sweets because the addiction to sugar and white-flour products is very real and physiological, affecting the same biochemical systems in your body as other drugs like heroin.
Your relationship to sweet things is operating on a cellular level.
It is more powerful than you have realized....What you eat can have a huge effect on how you feel."

Give something back.
Ghandi once wrote that "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
I believe that a sense of purpose--committing oneself to a noble mission--and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to depression.
The winter months are a good time to do this because the need is greater, the holiday spirit ideally lasts until February, and you don't have the excuse of attending family picnics, unless you live in a sunny southbound country.

Go to sports rehab
Don't let the cold weather be an excuse not to sweat.
We have centers today called "gyms" where people exercise inside!
Granted, it's not the same--watching the news or listening to the soundtrack from "Rocky" as you run in place as opposed to jogging along wooded paths with a view of the bay.
But you accomplish the goal: a heart rate over 140 beats a minute.
The gym is also a kind of support group for me.
These people, I'm guessing, are going after the endorphin buzz just like me because alcohol and recreational drugs don't do the trick anymore.
And, like moi, I suspect that they also have great difficulty meditating.
Every time they close their eyes, they have visions of screaming kids, which are running around the house, bored by playing inside.

Wear bright colours.
I have no research supporting this theory, but I'm quite convinced there is a link between feeling optimistic and sporting bright colours.
It's in line with "faking it 'til you make it," desperate attempts to trick your brain into thinking that it's sunny and beautiful outside--time to celebrate Spring!--even though it's a blizzard with sleet causing some major traffic jams.
Personally, I tend to wear dark colours everyday in the winter.
It's supposed to make you look thinner.
But the result is that I appear as if and feel like I'm going to a funeral every afternoon between the months of November and March.
This isn't good.
Not for a person hardwired to stress and worry and get depressed when it's cold.
So I make a conscious effort to wear bright red, purple, blue, and yellow, and sometimes--if I'm in a rush--all of them together!

Force yourself to go outside.
I realize that the last thing you want to do when it's below zero degrees outside and the roads are slushy is to head outside for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood.
It's much more fun to cuddle up with a good novel or make chocolate chip cookies and enjoy them with a hot cup of Chocolate.
On many winter days--especially in late January and early February when my brain is done with the darkness--I have to literally force myself outside, however brief. Because even on cloudy and overcast days, your mood can benefit from exposure to sunlight.
Midday light, especially, provides Vitamin D to help boost your limbic system, the emotional center of the brain.
And there is something so healing about connecting with nature, even if it's covered in snow.

Head South
Granted, this solution isn't free, especially if you live in Friesland.
But you do not need to travel the most expensive way, to transplant your body and mind to a sunny spot for a few days.
Just try to schedule your yearly vacation the last week of January or the first week of February so that it breaks up the winter and so that I have something to look forward to in those depressing weeks following the holidays.

Take up a project.
There's no time like winter to start a home project, like clearing out the mess or purging all the old clothes in your kids' closets.
When a friend of mine was going through a tough time, she painted her entire house--every room downstairs with two different colours.
And it looked professional!
Not only did it help distract her from her problems, but it provided her with a sense of accomplishment that she desperately needed those months, something to feel good about as she saw other things crumble around her.
Projects like organizing bookshelves, shredding old tax returns, and cleaning out the garage are perfect activities for the dreary months of the year.
And hey, most of them are free!

Challenge yourself.
My mood can often be lifted by meeting a new challenge--an activity that is formidable enough to keep my attention, but easy enough to do when my brain is moody.
Learning how to record and edit video blogs, for this guy who is not that good, with this kind of technology, turned out to be great fun.
I try to stretch myself in a small way every winter--whether it is taking a drawing course, researching the genetics of mood disorders, or trying to build myself a website.
It keeps my brain from freezing, like the rest of my body.

Light a candle.
If I counted up all the minutes I've spent staring into a flame, I wonder how many years of my life that would be.
Certainly more than the hours I've spent brushing my teeth or combing my hair.
It would probably even surpass the combination of bath and shower time.
For some reason I assume “That my brain spinning’s” are coming out better if I stick my face in a hot glowing body of flame.
The scarlet blaze generates a feeling of hope, of a fragile but fierce voice, that whispers: "you're not off the hook yet...hang in there."

The Old Sailor,


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