Cold Happiness – Beating the Winter Blues

Cold Happiness – Beating the Winter Blues

This morning I went on the Kerri-Anne show to talk about beating the winter blues and interestingly, received lots of comments from friends and associates who although not seriously depressed, do find winter more challenging for maintaining happiness. So, I thought it timely to repost this article I write some time ago; I hope you find it useful…

At The Happiness Institute we believe that “achieving happiness requires nothing more than practicing a few simple disciplines, every day.”

This is never truer than during the winter months when it can be difficult to maintain some of the strategies that lead to happiness and other positive emotions. 

Although some people suffer from a recognised disorder known as “seasonal affective disorder” (a form of depression with onset during winter months) for many people, the “winter blues” is a milder condition that predominately results from reduced involvement in pleasurable and satisfying activities.  In turn, low mood can lead to unhelpful thoughts which then reinforce the blues…and a negative, vicious cycle can develop.

But the good news is that each and every strategy we teach at The Happiness Institute is directly relevant to preventing, and/or helping people manage depression and distress during the colder darker months. 

At The Happiness Institute, more specifically, we believe happiness is something you “choose”.  And we’ve specifically chosen the word “choose” because each of its letters stands for one of our key happiness strategies.  And remembering and applying each of these strategies during the winter months will help you stave off, or better manage any unwanted and unhelpful negative emotions.

C =  Clarity (of goals, direction and life purpose)

Happy people set clear goals and determine clear & specific plans to ensure these goals become reality.  So clarify or review your life plan now (because no one else will do it for you!) and make any adjustments you need to make in response to the winter cold.

H =  Healthy Living (activity & exercise, diet & nutrition, and sleep)

Health forms a crucial part of the foundation to happiness.  It’s hard to be happy if you’re literally sick & tired all the time.  So do whatever you can to be healthy and you’ll also boost your chances of being happy.  This is particularly relevant in this context as many people become less active during the colder months.  Less activity can then lead to lower mood or alternatively, maintaining a good level of activity can act as a powerful antidepressant and/or mood enhancer.

O =  Optimism (positive but realistic thinking)

There’s no doubt that happy people think about themselves, others and the world differently.  Among other things, they search for more positives.  The good news is that this is something you can learn to do so start practicing now.  Applying this strategy is particularly important during winter as it’s easy to become glum when the skies are gray and access to normal activities might be more difficult than normal.  In this situation, one can apply optimistic thinking strategies to enhance a positive focus. 

O =  Others (the key relationships in your life)

Research strongly indicates that happy people have both more and better quality relationships.  So make sure you devote time to developing and fostering your key relationships.  Make sure you especially devote time to this during winter when social activities tend to be reduced and/or less frequent.  Find alternative ways to get out and about and to keep in touch with those who’re important to you.

S =  Strengths (your core qualities and attributes)

Rather than spending all their time trying to “fix” their “weaknesses”, happy people spend more time identifying and utilising their strengths.  Find out what you’re good at and do it as much as possible.  Once you’ve identified your strengths, think specifically about how you might be able to apply them to coping through winter.  Use your time to devote yourself to developing an area of strength. 

E =  Enjoy the moment (live in, and appreciate the present)

The past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today’s a gift – that’s why they call it “the present”.  Live in the moment and enjoy life more.  Live in the winter and enjoy it more. 

Those of you who’re alphabetically talented will now see that happiness is something you “choose”.  So choose to be happy now…because life’s too short not to be happy!