Winter is a time for hibernation. We spend 90% of our time indoors and away from the cold. I mean, who doesn’t love a day of sitting by the fireplace with a warm cup of tea and cozy blanket? I know I do. Not surprisingly, having too little outside stimulation can make one feel blue. In an effort to keep warm, we isolate from friends and family, work from home more, spend less time at the gym, and quickly turn down opportunities to engage in activities. Isolation turns into depression, and feeling down makes you want to isolate even more; thus, contributing to a vicious cycle of unhappiness.
As social beings, we thrive on connecting with people. Research has shown that socially isolated individuals are less able to deal with stressful situations, more susceptible to physical illness, and are more likely to feel depressed. In fact, loneliness is one of the leading contributors of depression. Therefore, it is important that we find the time to connect with those important to us (or anyone for that matter) especially during winter months.
How to combat winter isolation:
- Plan ahead: When it’s snowing or a really cold day it’s easy to choose to stay at home and not initiate contact with people. To prevent this, make plans with friends/family ahead of time. These can be big plans like taking a trip to the mountains to soak in the hot springs, going skiing or snowboarding, watching the Flames at the Saddledome, or engaging in indoor activities like rock climbing, indoor skydiving, etc. Or you could engage in smaller activities like meeting for coffee, sharing a meal, or hosting dinner parties. Planning ahead of time and setting pre-scheduled appointments creates the illusion that it is important and should not be cancelled.
- Make use of Chinooks: Calgarians are blessed with receiving breaks from the brutal cold. Make use of these precious pockets of time. Take a walk outside, park farther away at the mall or grocery store to get a couple more minutes of sunshine, and consider stepping outside during lunch breaks.
- Take advantage of technology: On those very chilly days when it is imperative to stay indoors to prevent frostbite, use technology to stay connected. FaceTime or Skype are excellent ways to stay connected by creating the illusion that your loved one is close to you.
- Bundle up and brave the cold: It may be worthwhile to invest in good winter-wear that will keep you warm in very low temperatures. Having the right gear will mean that you won’t be freezing your extremities if you did decide to leave the house. It’ll hopefully be one less barrier to connecting with the outside world.
- Open the drapes: Sunshine is natural antidepressant. Calgarians are blessed to have a lot of sunshine. Even when temperatures are near inhabitable the sun still shines bright enough to blind you while driving down Deerfoot. So open the drapes, curtains or blinds when you are indoors and allow the sunshine in. The better we feel about yourselves the more we tend to want to connect with friends and family.
Shezlina Haji, MA, has extensive experience in the area of emotional regulation, personal growth, plus many more. For more information on Shezlina and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.