Struggling With the Winter Blues or Feeling Down and Dreary?
Updated: Jan 16
The holiday season has come to a close and the Christmas decorations are put away. The house seems bare which has a somberness that pleases me. There is beauty in barren winter with its return to a simpler existence, relief in the absence of clutter, and a tranquility and quiet order that convenes on this brisk January day. This satisfies my soul.
Most people dread the winter and I embrace it. I find it an excuse to be indoors with a hot cup of tea, relaxing by the fire, with a good book in hand. There is not as much pressure or responsibility to be out and about with people and scheduling activities that fill up the calendar in spring and summer, but instead a sense of being rather than doing. Sitting quietly is always something I’m happy to do. I find it a gift. I carry this mindset with me in every season, but especially in the colder months.
Yet, as January is here again, many of my clients struggle with winter seasonal depression and lack motivation, energy, and feel gloomy most of the time because of the shorter days, the cold, and having to stay inside. Or maybe there are other things that have you feeling down, anxious, or overwhelmed as the new year begins. Whether it’s the winter blues or something else that is weighing on you, my hope is that this post provides you the comfort you need in the months ahead. We are all muddling through this time of year moment by moment.
The holiday season can make it difficult to settle. To listen. Especially as we were busy making the seasonal joy a blessing to those we care about and juggling normal duties. I am reminded that the cold, darkness, and quiet of winter is a time for rest. Time to be still, quiet, turn inward and listen to the whisper of our inner voice.
When you go into your feelings and wonderings, what do you discover there? If you find grief, pain, and sadness; embrace these difficult emotions and give them room to speak. Try a pen and paper and let the words spill onto the page in any way they want to. Buried deep within our heart also resides our hidden desires, dreams, and yearnings.
The hand writes what the mouth cannot speak.
Wonder, solitude and simplicity are words I have come to embrace wholeheartedly in the last year. I have taken the time to see beauty in simplicity, to marvel at the precious gifts of everyday life, and celebrate these quiet, unexpected moments in all their wonder. This lifestyle requires living in the present moment. Not waiting for a future moment. We spend too much time waiting for the next thing and we miss what is truly important. Life’s seemingly routine or mundane moments are often where we find healing, joy, beauty, and grace.
I’ll Be Happy When…
So many make the statement, “I’ll be happy when…” This tells me they are not happy now and have not yet embraced the art of enjoying life in the present moment. We wait for spring, for vacation, for a promotion, for success, for someone to fall in love with us, for a perfect marriage, for children, or for life. Yet, we end up missing our entire life. Our life is happening now.
Joy and fulfillment happen when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in now. No person, place, or thing can fulfill you and nor do you want it to! Certain relationships, opportunities, and situations come into our life, but they are not designed to be the source of our identity, or make our world.
If you keep waiting for the next thing to be happy – you may eventually become depressed, anxious, envious, resentful, and chronically disappointed. Joy and purpose come from being content and satisfied with yourself and by cherishing the precious gifts each day brings.
I encourage you to change your mindset of I’ll be happy when winter is over and spring arrives or if you’re in a warmer climate, apply this to other areas of life where you find yourself saying, I’ll be happy when…and instead find a reason to be happy now.
If we wait for the future life we want so we can be happy, we lose the life we have now. Rather than saying, “I’ll be happy when…,” make the choice, “I’ll be happy now.”
For me, happiness is this moment sitting here in my cozy clothes by the fire watching the squirrels chase each other in my backyard while enjoying a cup of tea, instead of thinking: I’ll be happy when my book is a New York Times Best Seller. Or, when I launch my podcast. Or, when I host my first women’s retreat. Or, when I can take a vacation. It’s not the big, impressive moments. It’s the small, seemingly insignificant things that ultimately determine our happiness and even our destiny. Therefore, when a thing your heart desires comes to pass it is simply an added blessing and not the source of your identity or happiness.
The Teeny-Tiny Moments
An effective tool I practice in my own life and teach my clients is to keep a daily gratitude journal of the things they are grateful for. The mini-moments of happiness, not the significant successes or milestones. As you get in the habit of looking for the itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny moments of happiness throughout your day, you will train your brain to have a positivity bias. Meaning, you learn to find the good in everything.
What does this look like practically?
When I wake up in the morning, I keep my phone off, make my coffee, and find a cozy place on my sofa with my gratitude journal in hand. I look outside at the beauty of God’s creation, and I let my mind wander to yesterday. I think about all the things that made me smile and brought me joy the day before and I thank God for those things as I write them down. I take the time to unwrap each precious gift and savor them one at a time.
Try writing down in your journal three things you are grateful for and make sure they are very specific. Be as detailed as possible. Remember, it’s the little things. Writing down the big things like, “my job, my children, my spouse, my career, my ministry” does not count. Instead write something like, “a fun, new outfit, the smell of homemade chili, new scented oils for my bath, or discovering a new book”. You get the idea.
My favorite thing to do is go back and read the gratitude journals from previous year. I smile, I’m surprised, I laugh, I cry, and I’m grateful to God all over again. I re-live every gift and it feels like Christmas morning to me. This exercise dramatically increases my faith because as I read 365 days of mini-moments, I am powerfully reminded of God’s goodness, the importanace of His timing, how He provides for me in unexpected ways, how He takes care of me, how He protects me from myself, how the desires of my heart do come to pass, how the things I was worried about never came to pass, and how He pursues me in the most intimate manner possible. If I did encounter hard and painful things, I gained the wisdom to deal with them and had the resiliency to overcome obstacles.
Look for the little things, the teeny-tiny signs along the way, and the still small voice that whispers to your soul.
Most of us want spring to come, yet meditating and resting is essential to our productivity, efficiency, and our ability to think creatively which is why it is important we learn to make room for rest. Whether that looks like setting boundaries such as saying “no” or giving ourselves permission to do nothing.
We can only be our best when we are rested and connected to our inner self (our needs, feelings, wants, and desires). Therefore, it is crucial that we are okay with being and not always doing. This is not only good for your soul, but healthy for your body and keeps your spirit awake to sense God’s still, small voice.
A Purpose for Every Season
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Ask yourself: What is my purpose for this winter season? Or for this season of life in general?
Regardless of what your patterns of busyness are or what your “I’ll be happy when’s” might be, you ultimately miss out on the joy that comes from purpose – knowing who you are and what you want. The good news is that you do not have to run on fumes, live at high captivity, and be driven by internal pressures. It's OK to live in the small moments, the grey areas, the unexpected, AND celebrate the big, impressive dreams and milestones. The difference is that you experience a deep-seated joy of the soul regardless of what season you are in.
Rather than pleasing, performing, and perfecting your way through life, you can be a person of intention, joy, and purpose.
In this last year I celebrated a huge dream and milestone – I wrote a book AND I purposed to set aside time each morning to sit with Jesus, my gratitude journal, and be still. I realized in all my ambitious endeavors I was operating in a state of busyness wherein perfecting, pleasing, and performing were drowning out the still, small voice calling to me and so I slowed down and began to pay attention. Now these sacred mornings have become a non-negotiable time for me (like exercising or eating breakfast) that I protect with an inner confidence that has continually given me joy, peace, and strength to face whatever the day brings.
“In returning to Me and resting you shall be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength”. (Isaiah 30:15, AMPC)
I invite you to stop the glorification of busy. Resting is not idleness, wasted time, or a sign of laziness as people frequently perceive it. Positioning yourself in a place of rest, both mentally and physically, makes room for your soul to breathe, your thoughts to wander, and your heart to show up. What you find there will amaze you and heal you.
This winter season let’s make space to wonder together and to welcome 2023 by celebrating the precious gifts of everyday life.
If you need help dealing with winter seasonal depression or you want to learn how to truly rest, I invite you to work with me one-on-one.