It’s that time of year when I should be neglecting my blog because I’m so busy with the bustle of the holidays, but instead I’ve been fighting inertia. I’m not sure if it’s the shorter days, or the anniversary of my mother’s passing four years ago, but this holiday season has found me listless and unfocused. Tasks I normally look forward too like decorating the house for Christmas, seemed overwhelming. I managed to pull the boxes of decorations out one day, but then let them sit in the hallway for a week before I summoned the energy to actually open them and put things out. My music practice space in the basement has become cold and unbearably dark as well, so I found myself avoiding it, even though I had an on-line show scheduled. Mostly I’ve been wanting to curl up and sleep. This is not really a viable plan when you have kids.
So I started doing some research on ways to combat winter depression. Here are some of the tips I found:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables: The vitamins will give your immune system a boost and the carbs will give you energy. Bananas are particularly good because of the fiber content and they contain dopamine, a hormone that improves your mood.
- Get some light: Sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the central nervous system and digestive tract and is thought to contribute to a feeling of general well being. Because of the shorter days, some people benefit from daylight lamps to get the light their bodies need.
- Exercise: Any kind of exercise can lift your mood, but yoga in particular has some moves that target the pineal gland which helps regulate the production of melatonin, yet another hormone that helps balance the mood by keeping the body’s sleep-wake cycle in check. A quick side note here, I found a yoga program on Netflix’s streaming library that targets depression. This was ideal since I did not have to leave the house for a class; the idea of leaving the house seemed exhausting. However, yoga can be difficult to do properly from just an instructional video, so use your best judgment.
All of these tips are good, and other than the daylight lamp, are things everyone should do to stay happy and healthy. I have a few more personal tips that may be helpful to others as well.
- Music: My safest drug of choice, music is the ultimate mood-altering substance for me. Upbeat music made me feel angry, and Christmas music made me feel even more depressed, so I tried some ambient electronica/chillout music. I recommend Soma FM’s Groove Salad should you need some mood boosting grooves to pull you out of the doldrums.
- Wallow in your depression creatively: Make something. Make something dark. Use your depression as the ultimate shield against disappointment. You expect nothing, so anything you create will be better than expected. Oddly enough, this philosophy works well for me in times like this. This is what I came up with. Certainly not my best work (I hope) but it made me feel like I accomplished something and also conveys my feelings right about now. For the record, the music was recorded many years ago, I only put video to it.
- Engage others in an activity, if only electronically:In the thick of my listlessness, I didn’t want to chat with anyone in person or even in real time online. It all required too much effort. My husband, never shy about commandeering my iPhone, downloaded Words with Friends without my consent and then challenged me to a game. For the most part I hate games, but I’m a sucker for word games. I reluctantly gave it a try. The back and forth and the need to re-engage my brain actually drew me in and in doing so, pulled me out of my mood. Plus, I couldn’t help but feel pretty good about myself when I scored 60 points for the word “hamlet”.
I will say I’m feeling much better these past few days and am now looking forward to Christmas. More so, I’m looking forward to getting past the whole holiday hoopla, so I can move on to 2012. In the meantime, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!