I realised today – à la the Starks – that winter is coming! There was a nip in the air in the morning, bathing with cold water felt like torture and it seemed as if the day ended as soon as it began (the sun set at 6.30 pm). Here it is – that time of the year when the decreasing day light and changing weather does strange things to my mood. There is a scientific name for it – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – and several people fall prey to it every year. The limited sunlight makes me feel lazy and downcast and leaves me with a sense of malaise. During this time, I find it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, feel extremely lethargic and end up doing a lot of sleeping and comfort-eating during the day. Not good, not good at all! Usually it takes a couple of weeks for me to find my bearings again, but this year I have decided to take preemptive steps to kick SAD in the butt. So let me share a few things that I plan to do this year to keep my spirits up – maybe some of these can help you too.
Soak up the sunshine
This goes without saying. Sunshine has a huge impact on a person’s mood, since sun exposure releases Serotonin, the hormone responsible for mood upliftment. In fact, there is research that shows that the rate of serotonin production in the brain is directly related to the duration of bright sunlight during the day. So try getting as much sunshine as you can.
Even though the best way to do that is to go outside, if that is not an option for you, then try to sit next to a window or balcony in your house which gets direct sunlight during the day. That should do the trick. Ah, and what can I say about the pleasure of sleeping in the sun! A nap in the garden with the bright winter sun beaming down on me is one of my fondest childhood memories. If ever a time-travel machine was built to go back in time, that is where you would find me – napping in the sun!
Dance like you mean it
Normally I would say exercise – but my own track record with exercise makes me the last person who has the right to preach. Instead of that I’m asking you to dance – crank up the music and move those arms and legs. And I really don’t have to say it – these days, thanks to COVID-19, actually no one is watching. The more you move, the more endorphins you release. Ask any exercise junkie, nothing gives you high like a good dose of endorphins. To get you started, I give you a fun dance video that you can try to follow. Don’t feel bad if the steps look completely different when you do them, like I said no one is watching.
Make a Hygge corner
Now stories from Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, etc.) are a little contradictory. On the one hand, they regularly perform well on most happiness indices, yet there are reports which suggest that limited daylight during winters (merely 4-5 hours a day) leads to a higher rate of depression in their people. But I like to think that they must be doing something right, if in spite of all the odds (of nature!) stacked up against them, they are still counted among the happiest countries in the world. In an earlier post, I had told you about my love for hygge (Denmark), so that is the trend I intend to adopt this winter from the happy Danes. Hygge is a lifestyle trend and while changing your whole lifestyle takes time, it’s easy to create a corner where you can take refuge whenever you feel like it. Here are some tips for creating a hygge corner in your home
Find an uncluttered corner next to a window so that you get lots of sunshine during the day (can’t ignore the first precept)
Furnish it with a wingback chair, or a squishy single seater sofa, or a thick floor cushion and a small side table
Place a lampshade or use lots of candles for ambient lighting (remember the lighting has to be soft so no overhead bulbs or tubelights)
Keep a few squishy cushions and a soft lap blanket for nap times
String a few fairy lights around the lamp, table and seating area
Have on hand aromatherapy candles or a reed diffuser for relaxation
Depending on what you like to do, keep books, magazines, a music player, your knitting supplies, etc. in a wicker basket next to you
MOST IMPORTANT – keep your cell phone and laptop away from this corner as much as possible
Last but not the least, think happy thoughts!
Knit a mood scarf
You know me, eventually I am going to come back to knitting. It’s my thing! But before I tell you what a mood scarf is, let me tell you about the thing that inspired it – Mood Journaling. The practice of keeping a mood journal is a very popular CBT technique recommended for people with mild depression. In a mood journal, you are required to record your daily moods, your thoughts and emotions, and any incidents/events that took place on that particular day. Initially it will seem like an exercise in futility (at least it did to me), but with time you will be able to see patterns in your mood and behaviour. You will be able to understand which incidents or thoughts upset you and what are your trigger points. The knowledge of these patterns can help you avoid your triggers, so that you can manage your moods and emotions better in the future. After all, forewarned is forearmed!
Now let’s get back to what I’m recommending – knitting a mood scarf. I know it’s an unusual recommendation, but I have three good reasons for making it. One, like I always say, the act of creating something tangible will give you a sense of achievement and will always lift your spirits. Second, writing in a journal can get awfully boring after a point of time, so knitting it out will be a more interesting option. Third, if you knit your scarf diligently – one row a day – you will end up with a beautiful and eclectic scarf to flaunt next winter.
Still not convinced? Wait for my next post where I’ll tell you how to knit a mood scarf. Maybe that will inspire you to knit one yourself. Even if it doesn’t, I still recommend that you try your hand at a mood journaling. It works, believe me!
Till then, I hope you try out some of the techniques I have listed above. Let me know what worked for you and what didn’t. Also, any and all of your recommendations for me are welcome!