After soaking up the 80 degree weather of Florida over Christmas break, let’s just say I was less than thrilled to come back to Idaho’s subzero temperatures. During the freezing winter months, I often find myself slipping into what has euphemistically been termed the “winter blues.” (Disclaimer: I’m not referring to the more serious seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Diagnosed depression in any form requires more than just positive thinking or a quick fix solution. However, I hope this article can benefit all readers in some way.)
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one affected by my mood. When I’m feeling down, it’s harder to focus on others. I don’t think of my husband and his needs as often as I should. Not only that, but everyone’s mood seems to take a hit! (The old saying “If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy” is famous for a reason.) What could be seen as a personal problem quickly becomes a family problem.
So, what can we do? How can we protect our marriage and family from our melancholy mood? How can we snap out of it when skies are gray and air is cold? (I asked myself this question when walking in -29 degree weather a couple weeks ago.) These three principles may help raise your spirits so you can give your family 100%.
1. Positive music
The introduction to the LDS hymn book says, “Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.”
Hymns and other uplifting music are a quick way to invite the Spirit into our lives. This doesn’t mean we have to listen to MoTab all day long, but it does mean that hymns and other uplifting music can help raise our spirits.
In fact, according to an article in the Journal of Positive Psychology, for people who listened to positive music in an effort to be happier, life started looking better in as little as two weeks!
So when you’re feeling those winter blues, try putting on some of your favorite happy tunes. Let music liven things up a little!
2. Regular exercise
We often joke about failed New Year’s resolutions to get fit, eat right, and exercise. It seems to be a general consensus that while we’d like to look better, exercising can’t always be the first priority.
We already know that these things would help us physically. But do we understand just how beneficial exercise can be for our mental health? Perhaps if we did, we’d take those new year’s resolutions a little more seriously.
Ezra Taft Benson taught of the effects of exercise in his talk “Do Not Despair”:
“Rest and physical exercise are essential, and a walk in the fresh air can refresh the spirit. Wholesome recreation is part of our religion, and a change of pace is necessary, and even its anticipation can lift the spirit.”
Studies support President Benson’s advice by showing both short-term and long-term mood enhancing benefits of exercise.
So whether it’s taking time to go for a walk during your lunch break, hitting the gym, having a snowball fight, or doing an exercise video at home (one of my personal favorites), make the time to get moving and shake off those winter blues!
3. Increased Gratitude
Taking a few minutes to count your blessings could turn your whole day around! From both a spiritual and scholarly perspective, gratitude increases happiness.
In April 2014, President Uchtdorf taught us an important but simple principle:
“There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful! . . . choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness.”
When we’re thinking about all the blessings God has given us, it’s a whole lot harder to feel down. In fact, in one study people who simply wrote a thank you letter and hand delivered it saw a huge difference in their happiness levels!
In short, cultivating that attitude of gratitude could make the difference between a gloomy winter and a happy one.
Kick Those Winter Blues
Overcoming sadness can be a journey (and sometimes a long one). But as you listen to positive music, exercise consistently, and live life gratefully, those gray winter days might not look so bad after all. So start today! Your family will thank you for it.