How to Beat the Winter Blues: Lessons from Recovering Winterophobes10 min read

For a crew of people who want to experience the world to the fullest, we sure seem to be struggling with winter blues.

When I first mentioned deciding to beat my winter blues, a lot of Globonaut crew members agreed with me, bemoaning the way they used to deal with winter.

Finally, we all agreed on one thing:

We felt the strong need to change the way we perceived winter.

After all, why would we dislike such an integral part of our lives?

I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I have, and find a few helpful tips on how to beat the winter blues.

Let it snow!

How to beat the winter blues: a grey and rainy day in the city doesn't have to be a drag
Photo: Roselinde Bon

Lana: “The wintry chill brings me peace”

As a child of a Mediterranean country, I’ve been taught to dislike winter my whole life.

The “training” began with minuscule things; bemoaning the arrival of November and shorter days, the feeling of wind and cold biting my cheeks, all those layers upon layers needed to keep me warm (and still letting the cold seep in, chilling me to the bone).

My recovery from winterophobia (not a word, but roll with me) started sometime in the past year.

I found myself recoiling from stuffy, heated spaces where I no longer felt I could breathe. I would stand in the cold outside, and I found that the wintry chill cleared my thoughts and brought me peace. 

Suddenly, I understood what Thoreau meant when he said:

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”

Henry David Thoreau

And in order to keep my spirits up, I’ve decided to come to terms with winter. The cold and the periods of extended darkness provided a shelter against the bustling cities of my life, growing more hectic with each passing day.

Photo: Roselinde Bon

Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

If you, like me, want to beat the winter blues – and not only beat it, but find joy in it – I’ve got a few tips:

  • When you feel the onslaught of cold as you leave you warm home, take a second to adapt. Sense the cold on your cheeks, understand why it feels so striking. Give yourself a moment to experience the unique sensations instead of just brushing it off by saying: “Ugh. I hate winter.”
  • You don’t have to sit out in the cold to enjoy it, but an outdoor cafe with heaters is a good compromise. Plenty of fresh air without freezing your esteemed posterior off.
  • During the spring and summer, I often feel like I am rushing through experiences. But there is no time like the winter to savour. From savouring moments with precious people without checking your watch, to savouring the food you love, and the unique way you feel during the winter, find a little stillness and joy in the slow pace. 
  • Adapt your hobbies to new circumstances. Don’t try to “survive” the winter until spring comes. Instead, make plans on how you’ll enjoy it. Frequent strolls through Christmas markets are good compensations for springtime hikes. 
  • Try new things. If you’re an outdoorsy person, find interesting art exhibits and plays. Challenge yourself by using winter to try new experiences. You just might find a new passion!
  • Make a conscious decision to make the most out of your wintry experience. Decorate early (my garlands have been up since the first of November). Stock up on favorite books and snacks. Update your playlists with the music that vibes with your unique seasonal experience.
  • Rest. Finally, winter is the perfect time to get some rest. Don’t worry if you’re not sleepy. I like the theory that there are 7 different kinds of rest, and it’s important to figure out which kind you need. There’s nothing like a little cold to help you dedicate more time to nourishing activities.

Oh, and romanticize everything. There’s no time like the winter to be hopelessly optimistic and romantic. It comes with the territory.

Photo: Roselinde Bon

Marijke: “Winter is like the Yin in Yin and Yang”

I have always hated fall and winter. At least four months of darkness, wet and cold weather, gray skies with bald trees… Not very much my thing. But this year I decided to do things differently, to try to see the beautiful side of these darker months. I need to remind myself of that everyday by going on walks in the morning (regardless of the weather) and by taking pictures of beautiful autumn leaves and foggy scenery. Another way to do that is by deliberately enjoying the long evenings at home with my husband and cats, sipping tea and reading an inspiring book. And by allowing myself some more sleep and forcing myself to sit in front of my therapy lamp (in order to keep the winter blues away).

And now I’ve started to realise the importance of the changing seasons. After several months of light, activity and positive energy, we need these colder months to calm down. We need them to reflect and to feed our bodies and souls with inspiration and warmth. To stop for a moment and think about life. We need them in order to teach ourselves to enjoy the simplest of things. Like Ane Brun sings about it so nicely:

“It’s the changing of the seasons / He says “I need them” / I guess I’m too Scandinavian / The relief of spring / Intoxication of summer rain / The clearness of fall / How winter makes me reconsider it all.”

Ane Brun

I’ve been thinking about the seasons. And it’s like the Chinese Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang need each other: it’s a dynamic interplay between the two, in which both are equally important to create balance. Spring and summer are the yang: active, busy, outgoing, creating, giving. Fall and winter are the yin: silence, inward, receiving, considering, being thankful. And even though I like the warm months better, I need all four seasons to be balanced. Reason enough to start revaluing these colder months!

Roselinde: “It’s all about tiny moments of appreciation”

For a summer child like me, the colder months have always felt like a drag. I wouldn’t describe the process of learning to love winter as a piece of cake. Still, I’ve made some real progress in the last few years. My mopiness needed to be stopped before it reached epic sourpuss proportions. Instead of wishing winter would just get it over with, I decided it was a massive waste to just spend a quarter of the year wishing time would fly by. Time is all we have, us puny humans, isn’t it? How could I be so ungrateful just because some leaves decided to fall off the trees and the moon wants to shine a bit longer than usual?

So, in terms of changing my mindset to a more positive one, small, even tiny moments of appreciation have proved to be the most effective. For me, it’s moments like crawling back into bed underneath a warm, heavenly blanket when you wake up before your alarm (impossible during a summer heatwave, for example). Here are a few more things that are just so much better in winter:

  • I can drink tea and hot chocolate milk without breaking out in a sweat. Instead, the warm cup will warm up my hands. Isn’t that one of the best feelings?
  • I can wear my favourite berets and hats to keep my head warm AND make a fashion statement. If that isn’t multi-tasking, what is? Maybe I’ll add a scarf. Imagine.
  • Rainy and snowy weather means there will never be a better time to truly enjoy time indoors, which means ample opportunities for museum visits, coffee (+ cake) dates.
  • Seriously bad weather means sometimes having to cancel appointments, which means finally finishing that book, starting that painting, playing The Sims (don’t judge me) or just lazing on the sofa to reconnect with my inner sloth.
Photo: Roselinde Bon

Qiu Ting: “Winter days are for letting my creative juices flow”

The weather has gotten chilly, especially at night. I’ve started wearing socks in the house and putting on layers of clothes to ward off the surrounding chill that lingers. Time is undoubtedly inching its way towards the peak of Autumn, as evident by the emerging maple reds from the edges of emerald greens. 

The changes between the seasons make me excited. Yet I feel like my body will never be ready for these transitions with the emotional changes and physiological responses. But I have found comfort in the jar of yuzu I bought from the supermarket to make a cup of yuzu tea to tide me through winter. It’s sort of like a warm consolation that I can rely on to get through winter. My kitchen cabinet has been stocked with chai tea sachets, vitamin C tablets, and hot chocolate powder.

As someone who has lived in a tropical country all her life, seasonal changes often make me feel severely under the weather. The cold wraps you and haunts you persistently. It makes you crave hungrily for the warmth, and leaves you wanting to hibernate until the cold dissipates and vanishes until the next cycle arrives. All over again.

As someone who has lived in a tropical country all her life, seasonal changes often make me feel severely under the weather.

Avoiding winter will backfire

I stayed indoors so much last winter in a bid to escape the enveloping cold the moment I step foot outdoors, which probably made me more likely to succumb to seasonal affective symptoms. I didn’t know why I was feeling that perpetual state of ennui, or feeling like I was super unproductive. The only productive thing I felt I was doing was reading the entire collection of books i.e thrillers by Keigo Higashino translated in English to get me through the dull winter woes, especially at night.

I spent pockets of time in between reading to practise my speech for a Japanese speech contest. I also signed up for a hot yoga trial session in a bid to feel warm but left me dizzy all over minutes before the session ended. That sauna of a room left me severely dehydrated. All in all, I was trying to keep myself occupied indoors but it backfired because I still fell sick.

So, this winter, I am going to do things differently. 

I am going to go outdoors more often despite the cold and dehydration. Photography trips. Exploring places in the neighborhood. Being more active and finding more hobbyish activities to keep myself meaningfully occupied. I am going to embark on a sketchbook project organised by the Brooklyn Art Library, spend my winter days sketching, illustrating and letting my creative juices flow. I love letting my thoughts drift and wander before they take shape in the form of creations.

Photo: Qiu Ting Goh

Finding optimism in harsh coldness

Our minds go astray when we are exhausted and uncomfortable, making our thoughts capable of being more destructive than we thought. I have underestimated the cold. I love snowfalls in winter. However, I have also come to terms with the fact that snowfalls don’t happen all the time. But the cold, the cold is the one that hangs tough in the air, pervades our hearts, digs deep into our insides and makes our minds clearer yet fuzzier than before.

I don’t know if it is the same for you, but winter feels like a season that reminds me time and again of discomfort and the harsh reality of facing our own emotions. In so doing, waiting for winter to end and spring to come is a process of being optimistic. It’s the joy of looking forward to a new beginning while embracing our inner emotions. And when spring finally arrives, our hearts sing a song that we have waited so long to hear.

Maryse: “I’m learning to adapt my lifestyle to the winter rhythm”

The more I learn about seasonal depression and winter blues, the more I worry when the leaves turn golden. I find myself anxiously awaiting the moment the leaves fall and the world turns grey. What if it affects me too?

A week ago somebody who deals with seasonal depression asked me if I also feel a little blue in the cold months. I started considering whether I did. It wouldn’t be surprising if the darker days and bare trees have an effect on my mood. I’m a sensitive person and I know how strongly affected I am by my surroundings.

So, subconsciously, I contemplated the influence of the changing seasons. Am I feeling down today because of the weather and early nightfall? Or do I have another reason for feeling anxious and sad? Whether it was the season or not, after a few days of overthinking I decided I didn’t want to dwell on it too much.

I know from experience that change makes me anxious; it can really get to me. Seasonal changes might be one of them. However, I’ve also learnt that I can get used to changes. I am capable of adapting to a new rhythm of life. And all it needs is time, and a little effort from my side in giving myself that time.

We use artificial lighting and heaters to forget about the weather. Nobody taught me how to actually adapt my lifestyle to the seasons. This winter, I will allow myself to find a new rhythm.

Photo: Maryse Carbo

How do the seasons influence us?

Never before have I considered the idea that my habits, routines and needs can change according to the season. I never gave the influence of the seasons much thought. In our modern lifestyles, most of us believe the seasons have virtually no effect on our productivity. Artificial lighting and heaters provide us with what we need to complete our tasks just like we do in summertime. Even though these modern tools are certainly useful, they don’t address our energy levels. Nobody taught me how to adapt my lifestyle to the seasons. Is it possible we have forgotten that different seasons are actually different in a profound way?

I have never before consciously allowed myself to adapt to a new rhythm at the start of a new season. This year I will try (or rather allow myself) to go with the flow of the seasons a little more. If it gets darker earlier and it is so much colder, perhaps it makes sense to feel a little less bright and happy all the time?

Maybe I can allow myself to sleep a little more. I can be a little less productive and stay in to wrap myself up like a burrito with blankets and a hot water bottle. I have made an autumn and winter mood board to remind myself of the good things the darker seasons have to show for. And to go out and enjoy them. And even though I’m giving myself permission to slow down in the winter season, I want to soak up as much daylight as I can too.

This article was written by Globonaut crew members Lana (lead author), Marijke, Roselinde, Qiu Ting and Maryse.

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