Getting Through The Winter With Depression
It's winter in much of the world, and many people are dreading being shut inside for months. Even though I live in California now and enjoy a sunny, temperate climate, I spent most of my life in the Northeast United States, and used to absolutely hate November, since it was the beginning of winter. October usually was sunny and crisp, and there were leaves of blazing hues on the trees, but from November on the landscape was grey, and the sky often was too. Plus, unless you're outside for winter sports, you're not going to brave the frigid temperatures, so cabin fever definitely sets in.
In the winter, the gray skies and short days tend to exacerbate our depression. Granted, it's very likely that you'll find someone with depression hanging out inside in the summer instead of enjoying the beautiful weather. But at least in summer there's a choice. When staying in more often than not is a condition that is imposed on you, your house or apartment can seem like a cell after a while.
If you don't have the option of moving to a warmer climate, to my mind the next best thing is to make the best of the winter months. I've written about how to make your place more cozy for the winter. I have some more general suggestions to help get you to light a candle instead of curse the darkness.
- As I said last time, good lighting will make a big difference in how you feel about, and in, your home. Here are some more lighting ideas and info: Set Up Cheap Ambient Lighting; Inexpensive DIY Under-Cabinet Lighting
- Bring some beauty into your winter with art. If you're not up to going out to a museum, or there isn't one near you, there are plenty of them online.
- Do you miss the sound of ocean waves, bird song or a mountain stream? I know this is going to sound goofy, since I've gotten odd looks from my friends and co-workers, but I love to listen to these recordings. It's a wonderful balm for the pain you're going through, and will help to make the warm weather feel closer. Most of my CDs, like Ocean Waves, are from Echoes of Nature.
- Get yourself some nice lounge clothes. Like some of the other suggestions, this is something small, but can make a big difference. When you're hanging out at home by yourself, do you wear some raggedy sweatpants that you've had forever? That you're embarrassed to answer the door in, and definitely not something you'd run out for a quick errand in? At home, I have three outfits that fit this criteria. Velour sweatsuits with long sleeved cotton tops. Kind of one step removed from pajamas, but respectable enough to wear out.
- If you're tech-minded at all, or know someone who is, take a gander at Lifehacker's ideas in "Winter's Coming: It's Time to Stay in and Geek Out."
- Make the perfect hot chocolate. It's believed that ingesting chocolate releases endorphins, which may explain why many of us crave chocolate when we're down. I concocted this recipe after I fell in love with Starbucks' Chantico and they stopped making it a year later. I had found Chantico a tad heavy, so I made my recipe lighter on the chocolate.
6 oz. high quality chocolate like Ghirardelli's
4 oz. high quality cocoa powder
2-1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
If you use semisweet chocolate and cocoa, you don't have to add sugar, unless you like your cocoa very sweet. If you use unsweetened, I would add about 3 tablespoons of sugar. You probably will need to experiment to find the level of sweetness that's best for you. Melt chocolate and sugar (if used) over a low heat. Stir in cocoa powder. Once the mixture is smooth, add the milk and cream and stir. Heat until steam is rising off the mixture, but it's not boiling (don't let it boil). Using a whisk, beat until frothy.