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Chase away the Blues

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If you get one thing out of today’s post, let it be this:

Eat more chocolate.

creampie

Raw Chocolate Cream Pie

People sometimes say to me, “Katie, you are like the happiest person I’ve ever met.” And it’s true: I am a happy person, 9 times out of 10. But I don’t always live up to my “happiest girl in the world” reputation. Why exactly does our society tell us it’s shameful to feel sad, anyway? Especially in the winter, there are sometimes days where I’m a far cry from my usual happy, energetic self. On these days, I have to drag myself to write a blog post, drag myself to make a meal, drag myself to meet friends or get to class… or even to get out of my pajamas!

Although my symptoms are nowhere near strong enough or frequent enough to qualify me for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it’s still no fun to feel the winter blues. And if I—a normally exuberant, loving-life girl—sometimes feel sluggish and sad, I know I can’t be the only one. So I thought I’d put together a list of ways I motivate myself, or cheer myself up, when sadness pays an unexpected visit:

vegantree

1.   Exercise!

Be sure to keep up with an exercise routine. This is a big one. Some days, when weather.com says “Cloudy and feels like 3, with 28mph winds,” I do not want to go outside. But I know that lounging around in my pjs all day, as nice as it sounds in principle, will actually make me feel worse in the long run. So I bundle up and get my butt out there.

If, where you live, winters are way too cold for outdoor activity, consider joining a gym or investing in a workout dvd. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you’re doing something.

2.   Eat Healthy Foods

Nutrient deficiencies can cause all kinds of mood issues, so the best way to combat this is to eat a variety of healthy foods, making sure to get the recommended daily veggie servings. As an added bonus, healthy-eating will lower your risk of catching a winter cold. And you won’t feel sluggish from too much sugar.  Be sure, however, to eat enough calories, as starving yourself can also make you feel sluggish (and irritable!). Always have a good breakfast:

strawberry vegan greek yogurt

Vegan Strawberry Cream

3. Take a shower in the morning

For me, a lot of the SAD-type symptoms I feel aren’t actual sadness, but simply tiredness or lack of energy. Taking a morning shower helps to wake me up. I also feel more energized when I dress up and put on make-up than when I wear sweats and a ponytail. I’m not saying you should feel the need to wear make-up for others, but sometimes dressing up can make you feel good, even if you never leave the house.

4. Get enough Sleep… but not too much

And be sure to stick to a schedule (just like with the exercising, above). In other words, try and go to sleep and get up around the same time each day.

5.   Go Outside

According to some studies, up to 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is scary because this vitamin is also known as the “happiness” vitamin. A deficiency can cause mood swings or depression. The good news is that all you need to do is get about 10 minutes of direct sunlight (without sunscreen) per day.

Also, keep your shade up during the day, and if you live somewhere that doesn’t get much sun, think about getting a full spectrum lamp or light box.

6.   Friends with Benefits

On cold, rainy days, it can be seriously tempting to cancel plans with friends, and stay home instead. Resist! My mood is so much brighter when I’m laughing with friends than when I’m lonely at home. If friends aren’t available, the radio makes a suitable stand-in. Singing at the top of one’s lungs is a must. No embarrassment; you’re alone, after all. And don’t forget your friendly animal companions. Playing with a pet does wonders for lifting one’s spirits. Don’t have a pet? Adopt!

7.  Count your Blessings

Sounds cliche, but it really works. Say them out loud if you wish. Or write them down for tangible evidence. Try to make the list as long as you can, and include even little, seemingly-silly things for which you are thankful. Also, volunteer to help others who are less fortunate. It’ll highlight just how lucky you are, and you’ll feel good helping others.

8. The Real Secret to Happiness

Chocolate!! It tastes good, releases endorphins, and there’s now scientific evidence that dark chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants… Translation? It’s healthy, people! Indulge (in moderation), and feel no guilt. Methinks that’s why I’m usually so happy—it’s thanks to all the chocolate I consume Smile.

cookie dough dip

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Dip

Question of the Day:
How do YOU chase away the blues?

And why is there such a stigma, in society, against feeling sad? Humans aren’t supposed to be happy all the time; it’d be creepily un-normal!

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. anonymous says:

    Dear Katie,

    Once again, thank you so much for having the courage to share something so personal. I wish I were as brave as you… Do I think there’s a stigma against feeling sad? Yes, so much that I’m not comfortable leaving this comment under my blog name.

    I’ve suffered from depression off and on for a while now, and reading your post really has helped me. No, it’s not going to cure me, but I’m bookmarking this page and am planning to come back to it every day and read the list and try to cognitively engage in some of your advice. This is a great list. Really, thank you so much. :)

    1. abby says:

      i’ve bookmarked this page too! :)

  2. Albizia says:

    Nobody can feel happy all the time. Even an energetic and vibrant girl like you obviously. But in the end it’s not that hard to do something that makes you feel better, right? Like dancing around like a mad woman when I hear a song I love on the radio or preparing some scrumptious sweet treat like the raw brownie batter dessert I mentioned a few days ago (if you are still interested, it’s on my blog). Little things can do wonders :) .

    Have a really happy day, Katie!

  3. Great post Katie, very honest! I am very much affected by the weather and the cold too but most times it’s ok. I have a friend though who gets actual depression in the winter and it was so sad to ehar her talk about her crying herself to sleep every night… and the docs just wanted to get her on meds :s. I suggested she try light therapy first.

    x sabine

  4. kay says:

    This was a really great post, Katie. I completely agree that the cold weather affects my mood/ desire to do things. If I’m cold, I actually find running outside warms me up by the time I’m home and showered. I like working out in the morning then showering so that I’m energized to make plans for the rest of the day, and don’t have an excuse to miss out doing things with friends (who are just rolling out of bed by noon). I cook and bake and blast some good music, as I find it very calming. I think a balanced day for me involves some alone time, time spent with friends and/or family, a bit of exercise, nourishing food, and yes chocolate or another treat!

    1. abby says:

      baking! that helps me so much too! and baking chocolate gives double happiness :).

  5. these are all great tips.

    Taking my dog for a good walk does wonders to get me out of a funk. It’s difficult now though because of the cold. She hates it!

  6. abby says:

    thank you, katie, for this! as you know, i’ve suffered from severe depression going along with my eating disorder. some of the things you mentioned helped me, but some of them i never even thought of!
    and thanks for admitting you sometimes get depressed or unmotivated too. sometimes i am so jealous, thinking “how is she always energetic, running even when it’s cold etc?” it’s comforting to know you struggle with feeling tired or unmotivated too. i always want to curl up and sleep when it’s cold. stupid SAD!

  7. Stephanie says:

    I wrote a post today about some debbie downer stuff that happened this week despite the fact that I’m about 88% upbeat and HAPPY all the time. Your tips were spot-on.

  8. Kathleen says:

    On days I don’t exercise, I do feel more tired, depressed, lack of energy. I know that when I work out, I feel so empowered — like I can take on the world. It is such a mood booster.

    No, you’re not alone — I get really excited too when I hear I song I know. 😉

    I ABSOLUTELY POSITUTELY agree with you that CHOCOLATE IS THE REAL SECRET TO HAPPINESS!!!! :)

  9. dragonmamma/naomi says:

    I almost choked on my blueberries when I got to #6.

    Friends with benefits:
    Two friends who have a sexual realtionship without being emotionally involved. Typically two good friends who have casual sex without a monogomous relationship or any kind of commitment.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant, but you might want to be careful about using that phrase in public!

    1. Valerie says:

      I’m pretty sure she meant it as a play on words.

      1. Melissa says:

        😉

        I’m pretty sure it was hilarious!
        Also, sex sure is a mood lifter, right?

        I know it for I have the power of SCIENCE.
        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/06/the_odd_body_sex_and_science/

        1. LOL oh goodness your comment made me laugh. Thanks, Melissa :).

  10. Mia says:

    I am so happy you wrote this post. Like yesterday I had a major meltdown and I didn’t know why. I was just crying and feeling hopeless and didn’t know how I was going to make it through this semester without falling apart. Your list is so inspiring! Just know you’re not the only one going through the winter blues and be thankful you’re not in Michigan like me lol! Fortunately, I feel a lot better now. I just had some coffee and a chocolate peanut single lady muffin (peanut flour and cocoa powder), so that could be why. lol

    1. abby says:

      *hugs*!!! i have meltdowns a lot. and then i feel so bad afterwards, because really i am so blessed to have a warm home and family and friends. but sometimes things feel really hopeless, and i don’t know why. just know you’re not the only one, either!

      1. Mia says:

        Aww *hugs*. Thank you. You’re absolutely right about counting your blessings. That will make a WORLD of difference when you think you’ve hit rock bottom.

  11. VeggieGirl says:

    Another tip = have a phone-chat with YOU! :)

  12. Carbzilla says:

    Great post & list! Very relevant to me at the moment. I’m gonna print out the list and put it on my bathroom mirror. Big hugs!

  13. I completely agree that putting on some make-up and looking nice can boost your mood!! It also is a great confidence booster. This may sound weird, but whenever I have exams, I always dress nice. That way, even if the test goes poorly, at least I looked good doin’ it :)

    1. Valerie says:

      So many people look down on makeup-wearers or girls who like to get dolled up, and personally I don’t understand why. I dress up every day, even if no one but my kids will see me, because it makes ME feel good :).

  14. Emily says:

    This is awesome! I have a friend who is suffering with depression, and I never know how to help her. I’m going to suggest maybe we go to a nursing home or soup kitchen together and help out. And I’ll also show her this post in case she can get some inspiration from it. I always feel so awful that she’s so sad :(.

  15. Heather says:

    I can definitely get the winter blues around here. Mostly because we rarely get any sun during our winters and the sky is always a nasty looking gray color. I definitely agree with working out to boost spirits and baking always helps me too!

    I hate the stigma that comes with depression. Everything in this world is about balance. You can’t go around happy go lucky ALL the time!

  16. I’m feeling a little winter bluesy myself these days. Cuddling with my pups is a definite must, and super hot showers make me feel great too. And I *totally* get excited when I hear a song I know all the words to too!! :)

    1. abby says:

      me too! but usually i mess up the words. oh well, it’s ok because no one is there to judge me!

  17. Great list! It’s interesting—I think this goes right along with my strategy of having all those things in place and practicing the tips you gave when I feel great…so when I feel blah it’s pretty easy to do the things that will help!

  18. Jennifer JCD says:

    Another super great post! Your cures for winter blues are excellent!

    Living up North, the cold and darkness really gets to me in winter too. Living up here means there’s no possible way to get a proper dose of Vitamin D from the sun, even if you stayed out all day (and froze your toes off), so we take a supplement.

    Other cheer-you-up winter activities on my agenda include:
    – funny movies (not every day, but they definitely come off the shelf more often in winter, particularly weekends)
    – baking (or otherwise making yummy food in the kitchen)
    – hobbies (always keep your mind active by doing something, even if it’s drawing or reading, it will be heaps better on your brain than mindless TV.)

  19. Absolutely LOVE. THIS. POST. In fact, I could have written in myself… and it seems like I almost did! I blogged today about how I deal with the tragedies I’ve been through in my life, and how I’ve gotten through them with running instead of any medication.

    Your list is completely on par. And I can tooootally relate… I loooove when a song comes on and I know all the words to it!

    1. Running and chocolate = way better than Prozac, right? And cheaper too!!
      (That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Prozac… I’m not Tom Cruise, and I believe that medicine CAN be helpful. But so can chocolate ;).)

  20. Exercise usually cheers me up. Well, except for yesterday. It was freezing cold & I got an earache, that made me pretty sad. :-( Baking, yoga, family…all make me happy! Good subject. I’m a very positive person but I do have my “sad” moments. (Especially when my ear is KILLING me.) :-)

    1. Sending feel-good-ear vibes your way!! 😉