When the days are shorter and the winter weather is dreary, many people feel down, or have what we used to call “the blues.” Another word for it is melancholy. A Duke University study determined that 24 percent of American presidents between 1776 and 1974 coped with symptoms of depression. Most folks know that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression and was still a brilliant president. I didn’t know that George Washington also suffered from depressive symptoms. Thomas Jefferson who was this country’s (USA) first commander-in-chief and the third president of the Unite States said that he was “inclined to gloomy apprehensions.”
Many people in northern latitudes, like Alaska and Iceland, have depression that is related to the long 6 months of a few hours of light per day. Some of these folks actually have a special lamp to mimic the sunlight and this helps their depression.
For most people, the winter blues pass when the sunshine comes out and the dreary days flee. However, if you need some help in kicking the gloom, try these tips:
- Get a good laugh. A good belly laugh is a great stress reliever and triggers the release of endorphins. Remember, these are the feel good hormones. These hormones give you a sense of well-being. Watch a funny show or movie (May I personally recommend “Naked Gun” or the “Rush Hour” movies?), listen to something funny on the radio, enjoy some light hearted conversation at work, at home with family, or on the phone. (My sister is one of the funniest people I have ever met. When we are on the phone the giggles start and the phone call lasts a while.) Remember a funny episode in your life and giggle all over again. (Or you could go to the card aisle of the store and read the cards in the “clean” humorous section. I am sure people thought I was a bit out of my mind, standing in the card section laughing out loud and non-stop. Now that I design and sell my own cards, I am not in the card aisle at the store, but there are still funny jokes to laugh at.)
- Do something as simple as going outside and getting fresh air can open up your mind and lift your spirits. Take a walk around the block, look at the sky, or stop and smell the roses. For those of you in the frozen East, this might not sound so exciting. But at least get out on your porch and take some deep breaths in and out. If you live in milder climates and it is raining, stand in the rain or a minute and let the water soak your face. When we were little in Pennsylvania, we didn’t have a swimming pool. But on rainy days (not talking storms here) we were allowed to go out and play in the rain. In the summer we would go out in our bathing suits. I have a pool now so I don’t have to run out front in my bathing suit (perish the thought), but when it is sprinkling I love to go out for a walk.
- Nothing truer was ever said when the words in losing yourself in service to others you find your own life. It is true. Something as simple as a kindness shown to someone you know, or may not know, works wonders for the recipient and in return you will feel better. Write a thank you note to a friend or coworker. Morale is pretty low where I work. I could think of something uplifting I could say to a coworker that might just brighten their spirits. Bring flowers or cookies to a shut-in or to a local nursing home. The sky is the limit on ideas. Try it and you will find yourself lessening the blues.
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