Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Overcoming Winter Depression: Beyond the Obvious

For a long time, I thought the solution was moving South. We even visited a bunch of cities, trying to find "the one."

But we never felt culturally comfortable down there. It was the mid 90's and there were stories of gay bashing/beating/murdering all over the news on too regular a rotation. A story of "possible homosexual activity" at one of the larger institutions in the South was exploding the local news in one city we visited right when we got there; we turned around and went back home.

Besides, we both have roots right here where we live, and we love the lake. We LOVE the lake, feel connected to her physically.

Eventually, too, I realized that I hate severe heat and humidity. HATE IT. Makes me feel miserable in my skin and shuts down my brain.

So what is a heat hating girl to do when she also thinks she suffers from winter depression?!

There was work to be done.  Over the years, I did a dozen different things and I finally came to LOVE winter but I came to this love through a not-so-obvious method...one you usually don't see in posts like this with "suggestions."

But first, I'll share a list of the More Obvious.

The More Obvious

A happy light.  
Really. They work. "Real" medical facilities even "prescribe" them now.

Vitamin D supplements. A local, wonderful physician says he even takes it here during the winter. You can get lots of vitamin D on grey days but it would take a LOT of time outdoors, time that most people do not have. You can safely do the 5000 iu over-the-counter supplement.  I know people who "feel it" immediately.  (And vitamin d deficiency is way more serious than I bet you would even guess.)

Getting engaged with winter. Get your ass out into that snow! Find a winter activity.

Walking. One winter, I walked every single day, even if just for 15 minutes, and it made me start to appreciate the subtle beauty of winter.  Which brings me to...

Noticing. NOTICE the winter. Don't just decide it sucks...see the beauty in the bare architecture of the trees. Feel the beauty in the quiet. Find reasons to LOVE winter. Your brain will eventually believe you.

Exercise. It changes/grows the brain. Period. Do it. And? You have to do it vigorously more than a couple times a week so find something you LOVE. (How about...DANCING!?!?)

The Not So Obvious

The Nest

The nest is your house in the winter in all its cuddling, snuggly, cozy glory. Dive into the cuddle aspect of winter with lots of soft blankets, of course, but don't forget:

Good music -- happy music. Be aware of the music you're listening to and the effect it has on you.

Twinkle lights -- we have them up year round.  One Christmas, years ago, I realized that when we took the tree down, that was when the depression really hit and then I figured out it was those sweet lights.

Candles -- these create warmth and the glow of a candle is good for you compared to artificial lights. You can also get them in uplifting scents. Citrus is supposed to enhance mood, and for me, there's nothing like evergreen.

Rituals -- create rituals that depend upon the early dark. In the summer, I can't have my candle lit, pre-bed, hot bath and I miss it.

The Weather Journal

For a couple of years, I kept a daily weather journal of the different seasons. You know how people complaint that winter is SO LONG? Well...and this is obvious but not so much...all the seasons are, of course, the SAME LENGTH.

Again, DUH.

But we don't FEEL that truth of that and that's what is important about the weather journal: You get to really feel the truth of the seasons.

And? You start to see all the patterns and how much the same it is from year to year. Mother Nature is downright repetitive, and for some reason, I find this soothing.

Daily Haiku

During a couple of winters, I kept a daily haiku journal which is just another way of noticing what is happening.

Here's the important thing about TRADITIONAL Haiku: there is NO "I."

People use pronouns in Haiku but that changes the flavor and the whole point of haiku, which is to remove the ego-centric viewpoint and just see WHAT IS.

This use of pronouns drives me a bit bonkers actually because this aspect of Haiku is super important and amazing. I believe Haiku done this traditional way can be a pathway out of depression in general -- not just the weather induced variety.

Daily Tiny Art

If Haiku doesn't speak to you, you could keep a tiny-art journal. Just tiny little, quick impressions of each day.

This would very much be in line with the underlying philosophy of Haiku.

The Commitment

The larger point of all of this is that you have to commit to this process. You CAN have a better experience of the winter. The weather is not out to get you.

Furthermore, the brain IS changeable...but only if you work to change it.

If you want to explore more deeply how to create an at-home dance sadhana (spiritual path) practice, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.