Have you ever heard of seasonal depression? Perhaps you thought it was just a made up term, but it is a real thing. In clinical terminology, it is better known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. Winter gets a bad rap because of how dark and dreary it is most days. Not too mention everyone spends the majority of their time inside due to the cold weather.
Spring, on the other hand, gives us hope that warmer, happier days are ahead. It is a time of growth and change, flowers and fresh air. It can often feel as though your mood is automatically lifted when you see blue skies and green leaves all around you.
If you are having a tough time shaking off the winter funk you’re in, you are not alone. I have compiled a few ideas of how to embrace the new season that is right around the corner. These 5 self-care ideas are sure to get you back on track with those long forgotten new year’s resolutions and just feeling happier overall!
Get outside– According to the NIH, low levels of vitamin D, caused by low dietary intake of the vitamin or not enough exposure to sunshine, have been found in people with SAD. Therefore, it is no wonder why sunshine and fresh air seem to play such a big part in how we feel. Once the weather gets a tad bit warmer, there are plenty of options for outdoor self-care activities. You could plan a picnic in the park, simply eat lunch outside one day, hit up the beach, go for a walk, pick berries, find a field of flowers and take pictures, or my personal favorite– read a book in a hammock. There is really no excuse (except maybe seasonal allergies of course) to not take advantage of the beautiful spring weather.
Move your body- Physical activity has been shown to improve our mental health by reducing feelings of both anxiety and depression as well as increase self-esteem and cognitive functioning. When we move our bodies, we release built up stagnant energies and emotions. Even though we may not realize it, our bodies store stress and trauma in different areas such as our hips, back and shoulders. I would certainly recommend killing two birds with one stone by going for a walk outside or a bike ride. But you could also take a quick yoga or strength training class at home (I recommend Yoga with Adriene or the Peloton app). Whether you can squeeze in some gentle stretches or a full on HIIT workout, you will not regret moving your body especially if you are struggling with anxiety or depression.
Organize your space- We have all heard of spring cleaning so this one might sound a little cliché, but hear me out! Cleaning and organizing our space helps us feel as though we really are getting a fresh start. Not to mention if you have been working from home for a whole year now (thanks COVID), you have been staring at the same space A LOT. If organizing your entire home sounds overwhelming and like a huge chore than choose just one area that needs some TLC the most. Maybe the kitchen pantry drives you nuts every time you open it. Or perhaps you have some clothes in your closet that need to be donated. You can also start by choosing whichever room you are in the most or that would improve your mood the most by cleaning it such as your home office or wherever you practice yoga/meditate. Making sure you have your own little sanctuary that motivates you and makes you feel good is key to happy living.
Try something new- What better way to start a new season than by trying something you have never done before! I am not saying you have to go skydiving by any means. It could be as simple as trying a new recipe from that cookbook sitting on your kitchen counter or ordering takeout from a new restaurant. You could take up a new hobby like golfing with your partner or a new workout class such as spin or barre. A new hairstyle, nail polish color, or even new fashion trend (wide leg jeans and a middle part anyone?!) might be just the thing to boost your mood and get you excited about spring!
Be creative- Remember when adult coloring books were super popular a few years back? It is because there is something so relaxing and comforting about art that makes us feel like a kid again. When we get our creative juices flowing, we are stimulating the part of our brain that as adults probably does not get used as often as it should. If you are not very artistic– that is okay! Being creative does not always mean painting or drawing a masterpiece. You can also get creative by decorating a room in your house or decorating for Easter if that is your thing. Starting a garden or planting new plants are some other fun ways to express your creative side!
This is a short list because it is not meant to overwhelm, but rather inspire you. Do not feel as though you need to do ALL the things. Just picking one or two ideas that resonate with you is perfect!
Lastly, it is important to mention that self-care often requires setting boundaries with yourself and others. In order to set aside time to engage in self-care activities, you may have to say “no” to others when they ask you to do things. It is not easy to set and maintain boundaries especially when it comes to our loved ones (cue the mom guilt). But as the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
— Amanda Vargo is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida. She specializes in working with teens and young women with anxiety, stress, depression, life transitions and low self-esteem.