Mental & Emotional Health

12 Ways to Lift the Winter Blues

By Terry Barnett-Martin

January is a time when the winter blues often set in and dampen the joy in our hearts. The winter brings cold weather and shorter daylight hours that can cause many of us to slow down and pull in. It is so important to listen to the wisdom of your body and give yourself extra time, space and nurturing, especially during this time of the year. Here are 12 easy ways to lighten your heart and lift your spirits:

Wink and smile and say, “I love you, kid!”out loud to yourself whenever you pass a mirror. It might feel funny at first, but after you have done this several times, you will feel more confident, more loved and lovable, happier and filled up.


Get into the light whenever possible. Light is essential to your mood. Every sliver of daylight you can take in will do you so much good. Take in the light and use the good energy to lift your spirits.


Play!Take time on a regular basis to goof around the way kids do. Most often the blues take hold when you take things too seriously. No matter what age you are, find something fun to do with your friends or your kids. Whatever your choice, play for a few minutes every day. It will do wonders for you!


Exercise, not for any reason except that it changes the chemistry of your brain and lifts your mood. For 10 or more minutes a day, dance around your home to your favorite music, take a walk around the block, work out at a gym, jump on a mini trampoline while watching a show that makes you laugh, swim, or do chair aerobics. Your mood will be noticeably lifted and your body will feel so much better. Exercise really is the best medicine.


Pet therapy.Pets like dogs or cats can have a calming effect and a therapeutic love value in your life. Animal shelters are always looking for caring people to adopt dogs and cats, so if you have room for a pet in your home and life, consider visiting a local shelter. Be mindful when choosing a pet that it fits your lifestyle and that your personalities compliment each other. There is nothing more gratifying than a sweet and funny dog or cat greeting you at the door every time you come home.


Build good relationship fencesthat both connect you to the people in your life with whom you feel safe to be yourself, and protect you from people who drain your energy or habitually cause hurt and pain. Imagine that every relationship in your life has its own unique fence that defines the connection you have or want to have with them. For those with whom you feel safe, build a simple fence in your mind’s eye…a place where you can meet and chat from your own sides of the fence. With people who drain you or mean harm to you, build your fences taller and stronger, consisting of solid materials like brick or stone with special features like Teflon to let things slide off so as not to get to you.

Do one intentional act of kindness each day, as simple as holding the door open for someone, or as big as finding someone in need and doing something specific to help. Acts of kindness truly change everything for you and the other person.

Wear your favorite clothes, the ones that feel good against your skin and in which you feel comfortable and attractive.

Eat your favorite healthy foods.Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible for the healing and life force energy they give your body and mind. Be mindful to watch your sugar intake: less is more. Sugar can have a profound negative effect upon your mood and your whole body. Though a little or even a moderate amount is fine and can bring some great enjoyment, if you have too much it can weaken your immune system, stall your brain’s ability to think well, cause inflammation, and drain your energy. Indulge wisely. As with sugar, so it goes for alcohol. Because alcohol is classified as a depressant, you want to be careful not to over do it. Again less is more, though none is also a good option.

Change the pattern.Just changing a routine can help to open up new avenues for feeling better. For instance, drive a different way home from work, listen to a different radio station, get up earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night, try a new food, take a snuggly 20 minute recharge nap in the middle of the day, try a new dance or exercise, and reach out to someone in need. Small changes in routine can give you new perspectives and breathe new solutions and ideas into your mind.

Remember to breathe and go easy on yourself.If the winter blues really lower the light in you life, make a promise to yourself and those you love to stop putting too much pressure on yourself. Also, consider reaching out and talking to a friend, a family member, or a therapist.

Honor your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Say YES to things you really want to do, and NO to anything that drains your energy. Be kind and caring with yourselfif you have the winter blues. Lead with compassion when dealing with other people, and let light, cheer and goodwill fill you up and keep you healthy.

Terry Barnett-Martin, M.S., LMFT is a relationship counselor in private practice in Southern California. She is an openhearted, intuitive practitioner and writer who is dedicated to helping people find the purpose and path in their life and relationships. Website:  www.truepurposecounseling.comTending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul can be purchased from and through major booksellers.The author is available for speaking engagements.

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