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Easily Transform Your Winter Blues into Winter Joy!


photo by Willow&Monk

Bears do it.

Koi fish do it.

So do frogs, squirrels, and several other animals. So why should you allow yourself to feel bad when you feel it’s effects? What I’m talking about here is hibernation.

Of course, humans don’t hibernate fully, but when the cold and short days of winter come around, many of us feel a physical change. We may want to sleep more. We may want to eat more. We may want to be less active and leave our home less frequently. I had a revelation about this recently. Since this is totally normal and most everyone experiences it, then there is absolutely no reason to feel bad about it!

The way to transform your winter blues is simple. Reconsider these winter changes from a new perspective. Here’s how:

Change the labels you put on the physical changes that you feel. Instead of calling these changes the “Winter Blues,” call them what they are: the “Hibernation Effect.” It’s not bad or good. It just is. Just like your hair color. It’s not bad or good. It just is. You decide what label to put on it. You decide how to perceive it.

If you want the “Hibernation Effect” to work for you all you have to do is decide to take a few simple steps, most of which are wrapping your mind around the situation differently.

Making the Hibernation Effect Work to Your Advantage

1. Stop Judging Yourself. If you’ve ever called yourself a loser for not wanting to get out of bed in the morning on a cold day, you can stop right now. Yes, that’s right. You have full permission to stop being critical of yourself. It’s not you! It’s the weather! And everyone else feels the same way you do! The same goes for all the other things you’re feeling. Instead begin to revel in the cozy rejuvenating aspects of the Hibernation Effect. You have the power to make these winter changes work to your advantage!

2. Get More Sleep. Yes, Yes, Yes! I know that many people in today’s frenzied world are looking for ways to do more on less sleep. “How to Sleep Less” type articles are very very popular. Here’s the deal, though. If you are getting less sleep than YOUR body needs, then you will not only be grumpy and tired everyday, you’re also likely to gain weight and die younger than if you got enough sleep. How much is enough? The most recent health guidelines say 7-9 hours per night. Listen to your body to find out what is right for you. If you’re tired every morning, go to sleep a little earlier.

3. Wake Up Slowly. We keep our home on the cooler side at night and I’m rarely excited about putting my feet down on the cold floor in the morning. The way to make it a little easier is to set your alarm so that you have about 15 minutes to wake up slowly. Establish a routine that works for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Drink a warm cup of tea in bed. (Keep a hot pot in your room to make the tea in the morning.)
  • Read the morning headlines on your cell phone.
  • Sit up and write out your plan for the day or journal your waking thoughts.
  • Sit up and daydream.
  • Sit up and meditate for 10 minutes focusing on a positive mantra for the day.
  • Do some deep breathing to bring some fresh air into your lungs and energize you.
  • Stretch: up to the ceiling, child’s pose, sun salutations, twists, whatever feels good.

4. Enjoy Indoor Activities. If you don’t feel like leaving your house on a particular day, then don’t. And don’t feel guilty about it or else you may as well go out. Give yourself some “free days” to stay inside when it’s really cold. (I think taking the odd sick day to rejuvenate your mind and soul is a healthy choice probably resulting in less actual sick days.) Enjoy those things you don’t always get around to doing such as watching a movie, reading, practicing music, doing some art or a creative project. Give thanks to the Hibernation Effect as you enjoy a fully deserved lazy day.

5. Getting Out of the House. On the days that you’re feeling some cabin fever, by all means, get out of the house. Bundle up and go for a walk. You will feel so good! Here are some other ways to help get you out of the house:

  • Take a class in something fun, interesting or that involves body movement, such as belly dancing!
  • Join a gym with a friend. Make dates to meet at the gym and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Focus on how you’ll feel afterwards for motivation.
  • Go for a walk in the mall on cold days.
  • Go see a movie, a show, an art gallery opening, etc.
  • Reward yourself for getting out.

6. Eating Right. Enjoy a little comfort food each day whether it’s a couple cookies, a muffin, a slice of pizza, or whatever you are craving. Try to save it for the end of the day after eating lots of fruits and veggies during the day. The reason to save it for the end of the day is that if you eat highly nutritional food early on in the day you won’t have such a big craving for bad foods. At any given point during the day, try to make healthy choices. If you do this 80-90% of the day, you’ll be golden and won’t have to worry about gaining weight.

7. How to Handle a Grumpy Day. If you wake up on a particular day and you feel tired and aggravated right from the start and you can’t afford to take a day off, then do the next best thing. Take it slow. Plan your day with lots of transition time and buffer time. Be kind to yourself, to others and take lots of breaks during the day. Take 5-10 minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply and remind yourself to take things slow today. The world can wait. In most cases the rest of the work can get done tomorrow when you have more energy. Avoid or decrease your intake of caffeine so you can reduce agitation and so you can get to sleep a little earlier tonight.

8. People Power. Be with people. Talk to people. Seek out your good fun friends. Make a call. Send an email. Set a laughing lunch date. (What is that? I don’t know, but it sounds good, right?) We lift each other up. It’s like magic. Go grab some for yourself. Be on a mission to lift someone else up too. If this is hard for you to do, set up electronic reminders via Gmail or Outlook or whatever calendar program you use to get in touch with friends on some periodic basis.

9. Moving & Grooving. You may be feeling more sluggish given all the layers of clothes we need to wear in the winter, but at the very least, ease yourself into some activities at least every other day. Be sure to give yourself credit for things like shoveling, stacking wood, and other winter work. The best way to enjoy exercise is to do it to some music or make it a social activity or both! If you don’t want to go outside to exercise, get yourself a rebounder which is a mini-trampoline. Minute for minute, it’s about the equivalent of jogging although it is easier on the knees. For those icy and snowy days it’s a great replacement for people who normally walk or jog. And they are cheap compared to most exercise equipment.

10. Awaken Your Joy. Check out this very cool course on developing true deep rooted happiness called Awakening Joy. Here is my review of the Awakening Joy course. I highly recommend it!

The Bottom Line

Remember that it is natural, normal, and ok to feel a little different in the winter. Don’t criticize yourself for this. Find ways to enjoy it and make it work for you.

Of course, if you feel like you have a little more than the winter Hibernation Effect going on, check with your doctor for other treatments that may be helpful for you whether it’s talk therapy, light therapy, or medication. This is also nothing to judge yourself about. It just is. Getting some help through it can lead you to finding the silver lining.

Please Share!

How do keep your spirits up when winter gets you down? All comments big and small are very welcomed!


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30 Responses to Easily Transform Your Winter Blues into Winter Joy!

  1. Cheryl January 28, 2009 at 7:16 am #

    Great Tips! Sluggish is not enough where I live. Just looking forward to winter being over.

  2. Ryan Biddulph January 29, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    Excellent advice! We dictate our own thoughts and feelings. These tips will help to get you in the right vibe. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Chris Vandecar February 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Nice to read your advice on how it’s all in the perspective. I feel the effects of winter in February in New England. But as you say, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing to want to lie about the house more. I figure I’m saving energy for the summer rock wall landscaping project sitting that is right now buried under a snow bank!

  4. derl February 6, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    i love to hibernate in the winter, wear sweats and stay home and eat. the winter is depressing though when it goes a couple days and no sunshine outside

  5. miles anderson February 16, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    i like your tip number 9, moving and grooving is the best way to forget your bad feelings.

  6. Ernie Small February 16, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    i live out in california, but recently spent a few winter weeks with a friend out in Wisconsin. talk about a crash course in what “winter” really means for a lot of people! we’ve certainly got it easy out here in california.
    however, my friend and i still both find it pretty absurd that the “winter blahs” that almost everyone experiences every year at least somewhat is now officially called a disorder. “Seasonal Affective Disorder”?! how S.A.D…..

    • agentsully March 13, 2009 at 9:53 am #

      @Ernie – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think that giving the blahs a label like SAD can give it more power than it needs. It someone is truly depressed that it a totally different thing.
      My point, which is along the lines of what your saying, is that people have the ability to take control back over how they feel. It’s ok to feel sluggish in winter. Heck, people have sluggish days in summer too. The only difference is we don’t label it with some debilitating title that makes us feel stuck.

      If you’re having a bad/slow day, listen to your body, get rest, and move on when you feel the energy return. And don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up.

      Thanks again.

  7. March 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    How true – thanks for this post!

    While I consider myself extremely healthy, I have been feeling sluggish and tired lately, and in looking for reasons (I’ve recently refined my diet, for instance) it never occurred to me that it could just be natural – the hibernation effect! Great term.

    Maybe I’ll stop working and go lie down wit ha good book…and NOT feel guilty! 😉


    • agentsully March 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

      @Shauna – isn’t it wonderful to know that it’s not your “fault” and there’s no need to beat yourself up! Enjoy! Spring is right around the corner!

  8. Tula March 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    Business not in “winter effect”, at us in Russia now only there has come crisis, here it – is really heavy. But thanks for your article, I hope it to me it will be useful!

  9. Maija Haavisto May 4, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    You left out the most important one – vitamin D! Studies have found a connection between SAD and vitamin D deficiency. Most people are vitamin D deficient in the winter. Supplementation is the best thing you can do for your health.

    • agentsully May 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

      @Maija – thank you for your valuable addition!

  10. uhealthu May 12, 2009 at 4:40 am #

    Good advice.We dictate our own thoughts and feelings.thanks for advice.

  11. Vin | June 9, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Great tips! A healthier lifestyle is one of the easiest ways to improve your mood. Sleep is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve your energy and your mood. It’s a shame how few people take advantage of it. In particular, diet can resolve depression and other mood disorders. Because we get so little sun during the winter, vitamin D supplementation can make a big difference as well.

    • agentsully July 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

      @Vin – thanks for your comments. I think you are so right!

  12. Peter | Workout Equipment June 22, 2009 at 7:34 am #

    Thanks you for the nice list and for pointing me to the awaking joy course. It really helps me to stay in the right mood.

    • agentsully July 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

      @Peter – yes, the course is awesome!

  13. mesm July 8, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Sleep works wonders for me, especially in winter, an extra hour alongside a few more coffees in the morning makes me a much happier chappy 🙂

  14. Diabetis July 20, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    For me, getting out of the house is the hardest since I am an introvert and I have problems with expressing my feelings.

  15. Online math tutor July 27, 2009 at 2:15 am #

    great post.. as you have explained the hibernation process in human beings i can surely say that…. i am kinda like it… i don’t want to leave my bed til 2 in the noon.. but as we have to work and earn our piece of bread and butter and to perform our piece of hibernation :)…. we have to got to work… but your post is interesting and its fun reading it

    • agentsully July 29, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

      @math tutor – are you in winter or summer now?

  16. biorezonanta August 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    hi, come in Transilvania in Romania , Europe, to see our winters.

  17. Alfred | Dont Stop Believin August 30, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    Whoa nice tips…very great..yes just change yupr mind…because every thing you do is coming from ur mind…Just be positive…excelent post…thank you

  18. Terry October 7, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Very good advice because it’s getting colder and colder…

  19. Raghav Culler October 19, 2009 at 3:21 am #

    Thank you I am very pleased with the donation idea about:
    -Drink a cup of hot tea in bed. (Make hot pot in the room to make tea in the morning.)
    -Morning reading headlines on your mobile phone.
    -Sit down and write your plan for the day or journal up your mind.
    -Sit and daydream.
    -Sit down and meditate for 10 minutes focusing on the positive mantra for the day.
    -Do breathing in the fresh air brought into the lungs and your energy.
    -Stretch: up to the ceiling, pose the child, the sun greeting, twists, whatever feels good.

  20. Cabin Rentals Lake Tahoe December 19, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    When the seasons change it does take an adjustment to your thought patterns. Living in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and working for a company that keeps me busy into the evenings working with travelers and home owners I stay pretty grounded. Lake Tahoe is known for cold days and the sun goes down very early. If I am not exposed to friendly people during these gloomy days and some shopping in nicely lighted stores around the lake my spirits suffer. One other thing to consider is living out your evenings in a well lighted place.

  21. Nishit December 31, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    This is my first winter ever in UK (i’ve always lived in a tropical climate earlier)and I find your post very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  22. used piano bench February 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Hi, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!

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