Ali Pica

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: 5 simple ways to beat the winter blues

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: 5 simple ways to beat the winter blues
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Are you feeling the winter blues? If you haven’t thus far, you are lucky, but January and February tend to be the most depressing months of the year, with the after-holidays lull, your losing football team (if you care about that), and Valentine’s Day, which seems to be the most depressing of all if you’re single. However, there may be some changes you can make in your life to warm up and feel less bluesy this winter.

1. Cut down on your online social network usage.

People who tend to use online social media, like Facebook, excessively (e.g. possibly every day, hours a day) may be in danger of major dopamine increases (i.e. the chemical messenger in your brain that keeps you happy and focused). This is especially true when people talk about themselves online, and what else would you be doing on Facebook? Not everyone reacts the same way to online usage, but basically you might end up burning up your dopamine usage and becoming depressed.

Excessive online usage may become a depressing addiction. Also, when online, people tend to compare themselves to the pretty pictures other online users make of their lives (we all know it’s a lie… sort of). This can also apply to dating sites, which, though this is just a personal opinion, could be more addicting, possibly waiting for some kind of message or visits to your profile, like winning a slot machine. Life is random at times, and we can’t always control what people think of us or how people perceive us, so I suggest the following:

  • Delete your online social networking apps. Once I deleted my apps (especially online dating apps), I felt much better not being plugged into social media all of the time. If you can’t delete them, just stop your phone from receiving data.
  • Monitor your online usage. Keep track how often you use online social networking. Put the date, time, and what you were doing and how you were feeling before and after the site or app you were using, and make sure you distinguish whether you were using the app or the site. This may be helpful to identify triggers to excessive online usage.
  • Stop worrying about what people are doing and start doing something for yourself, without broadcasting it on Facebook or whatever site you use for social networking. If you need to, delete or disable your account for a while. Start living your life. Take all of the pictures your want, but don’t post them on Instagram or some other site. Share things with only your closest friends privately. You will see how your attitude about online social network dependence changes.

2. Change your diet.

This may sound like some sort of gimmick or way of shaming you into losing weight, but I promise it has nothing to do with losing weight (even though you probably will).

Detox yourself from all of the horrible junk food you have been eating (with the exception of upcoming Super Bowl parties, I suppose). You can do this by first eliminating junk food, obviously (chips, pretzels, ice cream, and food with preservatives, like frozen dinners), and limit how often you are drinking alcoholic (most beers and sugary cocktails) and non-alcoholic beverages (particularly soda and sugary coffee drinks). Keep a log of all of the junk food and beverages you consume daily, the time and date, and what you doing and feeling before and after you consume them. You can do this with going out to eat as well. Going out to eat is expensive, and that food is loaded with grease, fat, and sodium, amongst other things. I am not saying never do any of these things (partaking in junk food or going out to eat), because that typically never works, but limit your intake. Once your body gets used to the idea of not eating junk food on a regular basis, you won’t crave it as much or at all.

Another issue to consider is food allergies. You may have a food allergy and not know it. If you suspect you may have a food allergy (e.g. dairy, wheat), check with your doctor, but keep track of a particular food intake as well. I had to do this when I realized I had celiac (yeah, it’s a real disease, get used to it). After consistently being gluten free (which is difficult, but not impossible), I could see a total difference in how I felt physically and mentally. I felt happier and had more energy to live my life. The point is, your diet has a lot to do with your physical and mental health.

3. Find some time to exercise.

Even if it’s only a couple days a week, find some time to squeeze in some exercise. Join a class, get a cheap gym membership, go running – whatever you need to do – and enjoy. Make up some Spotify playlist (“Eye of the Tiger” is a great motivator for some people) and make a good association with exercise (I know exercise can be boring, but if I am listening to music I like, it makes it way more enjoyable). You probably think this is common sense, but it’s just a reminder.

4. Try to delete negative people from your life.

Whether it’s from Facebook or face to face, delete negative people from your life (no, don’t literally delete them because that would be bad). If you can help it, get rid of friends, a person you’re dating, or whoever brings you down that you surround yourself with on a regular basis. If you want to be polite, just unfollow them on Facebook. I tend to be extremist with these sorts of things and go on mass Facebook friend deletions, but then I wouldn’t have any friends. Don’t be too picky, but consider the behavior data log (how you feel before and after being with or contacting that person). If you have a fitness band (e.g. Fitbit), there is a new app called “pplkpr.” It tells you who is stressing you out and who is not, more or less by measuring your heart rate. It’s fairly new, but it may be worth trying out.

Just not having a negative influence in your life can make you feel so much better. Sometimes we don’t realize the negative impact people have until they are no longer a part of your life.

5. Gain inner peace and acceptance.

Life goes on, even if you are still dwelling about what happened in the past. I understand I am guilty of this as well, and it’s easier said than done. However, you must gather enough strength to accept what has happened in your life and make the best of it. This sounds as cheesy as Cheez Whiz, but accepting things you cannot change really is the best option.

Yeah, winter sucks sometimes. It’s bleak, it’s freezing, and depressing. Make use of your Crock-Pot or get one, invite a friend over or spend time with your significant other, watch a mindless movie or TV show, have a beverage (it won’t kill you once in a while), and just chill. Life isn’t so bad all of the time. Or take time for yourself if you are sick of being around people (it happens, just don’t do it too much).

Whatever you need to do to maintain long-term happiness, whether it’s cutting out negative influences like online social networking, people, or awful food, or adding positivity to your life by making new friends, maintaining your old friendships, or going on dates, go for it! Even if it means making Crock-Pot dinners for a while, at least you’re eating somewhat healthier, can pack it for lunch instead of going out to eat all of the time, and have an excuse to invite people over.

Don’t worry – winter will end soon. After the Super Bowl, I know spring is coming. Enjoy the little bit of winter while it lasts.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Ali is an advice column that runs every Friday on NEPA Scene. E-mail your anonymous question to Ali here to be featured in a future column.