Are you feeling down? No energy? Like January is the longest month of the year and your mental health could use some improvement? I got you! Today I bring all the important things I learned last year while struggling with winter blues and how you can finally embrace the coldest time of year.
As I mentioned in my new year’s blogpost I struggled a lot with winter blues last year.
I struggled a lot with my mental health and had to ask for help. Which was the best decision I took in 2022. But in the middle of that, I discovered how much the reduction of daylight impacted my mental state. I never felt so blue, so confused, and down in October, November, and even Christmas time as last year, which if you know me, you know was not normal.
Think of us humans as solar panels. Physiologically, we need the sunlight to get a lot of our energy — not just our Vitamin D — so it only makes sense that we tend to feel down and fatigued during continuous gloomy days. ~ bswhealth.com
What worked for me:
Get all the lights
Bring the fairy lights earlier in the year, in October if needed, and leave them way after Christmas. For the whole of January even. I saw that being a norm in Finland when I was there in 2017 and found it adorable, but now that I read how the reduction of light around us can make impact us, I do it gladly. Leave some white decor from Christmas too, anything that resembles winter, and brings a smile to your face should stay.
Think of winter as a time to rest
If most of nature does it, why don’t we? Relax, enjoy the indoors, embrace the cozy blankets, and the warm drinks, and get some good books. Do things you love inside. Maybe you are a gamer: embrace the dark times of the day to play your favorite games, guilt-free. Are you into movies? Take this time of year to get your movie queue in order. Do what brings you most joy. You will have plenty of time for outdoor parties and social when Spring comes around.
But of course, don’t let cabin life be a norm. All Nordics swear by this: being and living the outdoors, embracing the cold, crisp air, and staying active is a must! wrap up warmly, go out, be in nature, and get some air outside – even a small walk to the closest park revigorate us immensely. Then you can come back inside and rest on the sofa proud of the movement you have allowed your body. I did this yesterday and they are so right! It was cold, and I had to breathe in several times to be able to finish the small hike we took (I’m 6 months pregnant and I feel heavy, ok???), but in the end, I felt awesome!
Seize the sun every time is out!
Vitamin D is important all year round. (See again quote above!) But this time of year is even more important. My doctor recommended I to get more and even take a supplement. Being the “anti-extra-meds” that I am (blaming this exhibition I saw in the British museum in 2009), I took them but am doing my best to be outdoors as she recommended me, every time I see the sun out. For example: if there is sun and no leftovers in the fridge, it’s lunchtime out, somewhere where I can feel the sun in my face. And on weekends, I try to beat my lazy self and get outdoors while there is sun out too. Do what works for you, but get that Vitamin D in!
// READ MORE: The Habits You Need to Start This Year Strong
Light all the candles
But keep an eye on them! As I saw in this youtube video this week, the Nordics are used to this since they are kids, so they never leave a candle unattended, even for a bathroom break. Crazy, right? But why not? It’s just to light them again when we are back in the room. Ok, I’m going to try to do that moving forward, ok? But to start: use those candles you have stored for more than 5 years, please! Yes, those tea little candles too from IKEA that I know you have in that drawer. Use them. Nordics live by these. They don’t wait for special days to use them, they light candles every day, around their home to bring in light. Try it! And embrace the warm cozy light it brings.
Cherish your fireplace
If you are as lucky as we are, embrace your fireplace! I love our fireplace, the ambient that gives to our living room, the sound of a crackling fire… and I enjoyed a lot learning how to keep it up too. It was a full journey of learning, so if you are in the beginning of it, don’t sweat it, it’s normal, but so worth it. Our fireplace is also a favorite of us to spend the colder nights, sometimes even afternoons, when the cold is too much and we move our working laptops to the sofa and work together from there. And don’t tame the cost of the wood. If you can, skip the supermarkets and find a local vendor. They are especially common outside the big cities and not only cheaper but way better quality too. Plus way friendly!
Watch the Nordics embrace winter in way colder and darker places
I will leave you here a playlist of my favorite Youtube videos until now. I learned so much from them that you will see some of these tips going around in some of them, repeatedly. There is nothing better than opening your perspective when it’s so cold that you think it’s the worst. But it is not really. And they live in it. And thrive in it. See how!
Get a warm beverage and pastry and go to the park
This was one of my favorite things to do with André after coffee shops started to open back up with takeout after Covid. We would pick up a cup of coffee with a warm croissant and go to the nearest park, which in my town is right across the street, near a beautiful river. I love doing this. It’s a way to embrace my love for pastries, and coffee and still get the cold weather in my face. Plus points if there is some sunlight Vitamin D out!
// READ MORE: Torcidos – our family Christmas recipe
Even better than going outside is to bake it at home. Especially now that my little one discovered his love for helping out with this. I want to bake more regularly at our place – a simple butter cookie recipe is a must and increases our happiness and warmth at home by 100%. I grew up with my mom doing this: when too cold, is time to bake! I hope to continue this tradition with my boys.
Wake up, have dinner and go to bed early
My grandpa has done this since I can remember and I’m proud to announce that 2023 brought me, finally, this side of him to myself. I even beat him now! Waking up early has improved my mental health, my selfcare, my consistency in working on my goals, my patience and dedication with Baby T in 1000%. I swear by it now. And what helped me with this was not only reading this book but also a change in my daily habits that took years.
With the little one, we had to change our working routines, we started working earlier and finishing also earlier to pick him up from school, and then we started having dinner earlier, and then putting him down earlier to bed. I will not say that we can make him be in bed by 9 pm, which would be dreamy, but we did in the past and that opened my mind for my perfect time to sleep every day: around 10 pm.
The book above also mentions 10:30 pm as the “point of no return” when you may feel like your sleep seems to run away from you and you end up being awake for more 2 or 3 hours. Familiar? Yap, I feel that.
So, if Baby T allows me, I’m asleep by that time. Sometimes I end up falling asleep before him, but well, he will learn eventually! Plus, there is nothing better than working on my blogposts before the world is up, seeing the light come up through my office window, and driving to school with the first rays of the sun. Nop, I’m not going back. My grandpa is one more time: right!
Enjoy a morning routine that focus on you
I’m not going to say what you need to do here, because I tried so many things during the years that didn’t work for me. Do you! This is my best advice. Find what makes you happy to get out of bed for yourself in the morning. For me is to be able to wake up slowly, pick my Monopoly game, read my e-mail for school updates, drink my coffee slowly and in peace while I watch the first news of the day, and sit by myself at my desk to work on my blog, before anyone wakes up and is still night outside – I love it this way and I love the ambiance of my office in the dim, night light. Plus I find myself writing 10x more quickly in this time. And feel like already did so much before the little one is up and my real work day starts. Only wins, wins.
Improve and cozy up your work-from-home space
This can mean different things for you than for me, but if you are like me and have 1000 plans, start with the simple and easy: bring a warm blanket for the colder days (don’t matter if it’s red and your aesthetic is beige, let’s wing it for now), bring the fairy lights (I keep a set of these all year round in mine) and all the small lamps (I only have our old living room lamp, but while I don’t by a warm candle lamp, it will have to work!) and your favorite candle. And some blinders. My office is in the attic of our house, so it’s cold, adding window treatments (“cortinados” in Portuguese) was a must to improve my space. Go with what you feel will make you feel cozy and happy to stay in there all day. But don’t forget to take breaks!
// READ MORE: 4 Top Things That Helped Me Work From Home This Year
Declutter your home
Decluttering is not new for me and I need to advise you to not take this as a major decluttering task that you need to take. You don’t need to go all Marie Kondo in the colder month of the year. But one of the things that I learned from the Nordics and that always fascinated me is their focus on simplifying and minimalist. So what I recommend you to do on this is: simplify and get your house to your dream vision. Get out with the old and unloved and stick with what brings you really joy. Of course not linear, you will need some utensils to live that are not joyful, but little by little, change them into pieces that you look.
Another example, during Christmas, I use a lot of red and textiles around the house, but my vision for our home is very coastal modern white, so as soon as Epiphany Day passes, I go back to our white and clear status. Take everything that doesn’t match our vision and focus on only getting things in our home that meet our vision of a peaceful and white coastal modern cabin. Although I love Christmas, by the end. of the year I’m usually ready for this change.
Embrace this time for some cozy reading
And what more fun for a book lover than planning a fun TBR to focus on during January? I read 100 books in 2023 (yes, I finally did it!), so I didn’t put any big reading challenge for me this year. But even with that, I have made a loose list of books I would like to read during this winter. Starting with the ACOTAR series. Yes, I’m diving in! So, browse your home library, your public library, Goodreads, and find 3 books you’d love to read at this cold time of year and curl up with the first one on the sofa.
Take care of your skin
I’m not a beauty blogger, never was and never will be, but moisturizing is a must in this time of year. And I finally learned it. If you focus on taking care of your exterior, I bet you will feel better inside too. Bring in the moisturizers, the lip balms, and the good exfoliator, and make it a routine to use it. Even a simple skincare routine can help during this time.
Have a monthly Mental Health Day and a regular self-care routine
This one is my must, as I already shared it on my last post and will share More on the next post, next week!
See you then! And meanwhile, hope you have a very Lovely Winter!