Here we are at the end of January and there’s officially still a couple of months of winter to go. It’s at this time of the year that people get cabin fever, cagey, glum, as well as simply in a funk. Perhaps, you want to do something, but you’re feeling blue. This is a natural experience of the rhythm of time. Think of yourself as a tree. In the springtime, we get all flowery and energized. Over the summer months we are out and about soaking up the sunshine, then fall season hits and we begin to feel a little chill in the air and some of us get excited that it’s finally not blaring hot. For others, it’s a reminder that colder weather is approaching with winter’s tundra-like weather and shorter daylight availability. (Brrr…)

If you enjoy the colder weather and all that it has to offer, then you’ve got it all covered. Just head out to the slopes, find an ice skating rink or shuffle through the snow. However, those who are not fans of this season may be feeling downright SAD. That’s seasonal affective disorder. It comes with a plethora of symptoms and it can get gnarly. Bears hibernate, but we don’t. So, to get through this time, here are some ideas and tips to steer you in a brighter direction.

Get physical

Don’t sit around couch surfing or laid up in bed with your head under the covers! Try to get moving. And while you’re at it, try developing a regular schedule to help you stay balanced during SAD times. It’s also a good time to begin to get fit for warmer months when swimming, sports, etc., are ramping up. You don’t have to purchase expensive equipment and you don’t have to spend a fortune at a local gym to feel and look better. Walking is one way that you can charge your batteries. It’s low tech, and only requires a pair of shoes and a bit of determination. You might even head out to a mall and walk around the inside of it for varying amounts of time. If you are just starting out, take it easy. Start with a simple plan of walking for 10 minutes, then increase that until you’ve reached your goal. Your physician should give you the green light to do any activity, especially if you’ve got healthcare concerns. Get that handled first and a prescription for your routine.

If you’re more fit, you might want to take in an exercise video while you do a little workout. Some of you might even have equipment at home like a step machine or an elliptical bike. Invite a friend over and take turns using it. Or bring up a good TV show or movie and watch it while you cycle.

You can also try some yoga and let that OHM get your chi all balanced.

Getting outside for some sunshine and exercise can also help you beat the blues. Let the kid in you come out of hiding and try some sledding or a snowball fight. It can be fun, plus it allows you to engage in light-hearted connections with your family and friends. Find the right gear to provide personal comfort and safety while engaging in some energy-producing activities. Here are some tips to get going:

• Remember that winter means early sunsets. So, get your journey started early in the morning to take advantage of the limited sunlight. Be sure your pack includes a flashlight or headlamp in the event you are still on the trail as the sun sets.
• Before getting started, be sure to give your muscles time to warm up. To avoid injury, it is always important to stretch before embarking on a workout, but it becomes especially important in cold weather.
• High-quality wearable tech is crucial for today’s outdoor enthusiast. Seek out a durable watch specifically designed to help you make the most of outdoor sports. You can use your timepiece to learn about your surroundings and support you in the things you want to do, for a safer, more connected journey.
• You may be working up heat, but you’ll still want to keep your head, fingers and toes well-protected in cold weather temperatures. These are the areas of the body most vulnerable to frostbite. Select socks, gloves and a hat specifically designed for sports that offer moisture wicking, comfort and warmth. Be aware of the signs of frostbite and take care to get indoors at the earliest sign.
• Just because the temperature is colder doesn’t mean you should skip on the important things you do to stay healthy at other times of the year. For example, drinking water and staying hydrated are important whenever you are physically active.
• Keep using an SPF lotion on any exposed skin, and wear eye protection such as sunglasses designed for sports or goggles.
• Before investing in expensive, space-consuming equipment upfront, consider whether it’s more worthwhile to rent or buy these items.
• Listen to the advice of any instructors you work with and always follow the directions and safety rules at the facility.

And, remember that activity with exercise helps your brain to release endorphins, serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine, all the natural mood boosters and feel-super chemicals that make us feel in good spirits.

Get out and socialize

Another way you can beat the blues is to get together with your friends and family. Staying holed up does nothing to battle against depression or the blahs. Try getting a cup of java with someone and spend time chatting. Grab lunch or dinner. Play games, shop, go to a sporting event, play or concert or try some dancing. You’ll turn that SAD, frown face into a smiley one.

Hello sunshine

Finding things to beat the blues and winter funk can help bring on a smile instead of a frown. (Photo Credit: A. Buechert via Adobe Stock)

One major element in stemming the blues is light exposure. It helps to stimulate your physiology. Think of light and dark. In the dark, you are quiet and reserved. Bring in some light and you begin to move. It’s sort of like being asleep and and then awake. Light is that thing that brings you to an alert state.

Try stepping outside on a sunny day and walk around in its warming rays. Don’t forget to bundle up, however. You’ll enjoy the fresh air more when you aren’t shivering! If going outside is a challenge, then turn on the lights in your house. Don’t sit in the dark. Mental healthcare professionals suggest this to their clients as a way to battle the blues. There are even specialized light boxes that you can purchase that will give you targeted illumination in the way of light therapy. These should be obtained after receiving a prescription from your doctor and instructions on how to best use it.

You could also use dawn simulators that are light producing devices that bring gradual illumination into your bedroom to help you wake up more naturally.

Remember that sunshine gives us vitamins that helps out our immune system. So get up and go!

If all else fails, then schedule an appointment with a mental health professional who can help you deal with SAD or other forms of depression. If its warranted, using an antidepressant can provide the extra support that you might need, especially if there is a tendency for brain chemistry or firing mechanisms to have a deficit. The addition of nutritional supplements may also be suggested by your doctor or healthcare provider to help improve your mind and your body.

Hope is a four letter word

With seemingly constant negative news reports, you may feel like there is little to feel hopeful about these days, but experts say that having hope can be a powerful tool in good times and bad.

“Whether you’ve lost a job or a loved one, or you’re experiencing general feelings of despair, hope can give you strength and renew your potential and purpose,” says Dr. Rosalind Tompkins, founder of the National Month of Hope. “Finding hope in everyday challenges is the first step to creating a solution.”

To help you find hope in your life, as well as spread hope to others, Dr. Tompkins, a recognized “Hopeologist” and life coach offers the following advice.

• Schedule five minute “hope breaks” into your normal routine.
• Set goals and move forward, focusing on results. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your progress.
• Spread hope to your community by giving time, food and money to those in need.
• Is there someone in your life who needs hope? Prepare yourself for a conversation with that person by turning on your own belief that things can get better.

While despairing often comes naturally in times of personal and public crisis, consider empowering yourself to move forward by adopting a hopeful attitude.

For more information or other tips, visit

Portions of this feature were made available through StatePoint Media resources.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.