While February may be the month of love, for many it can also double as the month that the seasonal blues hit full force. With the excitement of the holidays passed, suddenly we all find ourselves three months deep into overcast skies and biting temperatures that show no promises of letting up anytime soon. Throw in personal hardships, and suddenly the gloomy weather mixed with a gloomy disposition can equate to a very real battle with depression.
If you find yourself struggling to “find the bright side” this February, know that you’re not alone. Whether it be due to the weather, the loss of a loved-one in your life, unforeseen circumstances or biological inclinations, there are practical ways to help your mind stay focused on the positives that life has to offer.
Carve Out Time for Yourself in the Morning
There is no better time throughout the day to prioritize “you” time than early in the morning before tasks need to be completed or the day’s demands begin. Consider creating the habit of waking up 30 minutes to one hour earlier than you currently are. Carving out this time allows you to prioritize yourself in whatever way that is personally needed. Whether it be going to the gym, learning a new language, meditating, or just sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and the latest celebrity news magazine in hand, starting the day off with quiet time devoted to whatever it is that makes you feel at peace will set the tone for the rest of the day to come.
According to Psychologist Dr. Marny Lishman, waking up just 30 minutes earlier than normal can have a significant impact on a person’s mood throughout the day.
“Doing something pleasurable in that time, like exercising, meditating, or just sitting peacefully and enjoying a cup of tea outside, allows you to increase your mood, and sets the tone for the rest of the day,' says Lishman.
As challenging as it can be to wake up early, consider making this a priority during the winter months. You’ve likely heard it before, but healthy eating and taking the time to exercise (whether it be walking around the block or going to the gym) are beneficial not only for physical health, but mental health as well. Having extra time in the morning can also create the time in the day to focus on these aspects of life that may feel too demanding after a long workday. With less sunlight throughout the day, dedicating time to yourself in the morning, and thus being awake and active for the full scope of the day, can lead to a more fulfilling day and sense of self-accomplishment.
Be Mindful of Negative Thoughts
If you’re struggling with staying positive, it’s important that you be mindful of the little thoughts or actions that can play a rather significant role in your mood. An example of this is allowing negative thoughts to run rampant in your mind—a habit that can often lead to a long string of pessimistic views and focusing on current misfortunes. If you’re undergoing certain hardships in life, it is important to allow yourself the time to think through and process how these events have affected you. However, there is a difference between processing and falling into a victim mentality. There does come a time when it becomes your responsibility to start filtering the negative thoughts that you allow to direct your day, and instead choose to mentally reinvent the challenge you’re working through. Rather than focus on how the event has depreciated your life, start asking yourself how this event can serve as a lesson to learn from. Being able to learn from a situation allows you to be in control, rather than “it” controlling you.
Plan a Vacation
If months of grey and drizzly weather is the culprit of your sorrow, make it an annual tradition to plan one vacation every February. Even if it’s only for three or four days to a sunny location, a few days feeling warmth on your skin and seeing the world brighten with the attention of the sun can leave you feeling restored and ready to tackle the remainder of the winter and early spring months. A vacation doesn’t need to be long nor does it need to be expensive—if you plan ahead, you can take a trip to sunnier states or countries on a budget. Even if it means cutting out spending in other areas of life, prioritizing your mental health and taking a break from gloomy weather is well worth the investment.
If you’re entering this February with a shadow over your head, remember that every season will eventually pass. However, we encourage you to invest in practices or traditions that will help you not only endure, but thrive through the overcast winter months.